The Falcons offense didn’t have trouble getting to the red zone in 2020, but Dirk Koetter’s group struggled to convert those opportunities into points. Matt Ryan is the only regular starter who completed under 50% of his attempts inside the 20-yard line and inside the 10. Red zone efficiency will be the most notable improvement under Arthur Smith compared to the past regime.
Atlanta’s offense last year ranked 13th in the league with 3.8 red zone scoring attempts per game, but they ranked 26th in the league with a 53.45% red zone touchdown (only) scoring percentage. Of the five worst red-zone teams this year, Atlanta spent the most time there — 17 more trips than the Jets.
Comparing the red zone scoring of the Titans and Falcons is a better indicator of Atlanta’s shortcomings. To put things into perspective, one of the best offenses in the league last year — the Titans — ranked fourth in the league with 3.9 red zone scoring attempts per game. But it is not about getting inside the opponent’s 20-yard line; it is about converting red zone trips into touchdowns, which Tennessee did. 74.24% of red zone trips ended in touchdowns last year, good for second in the league. The Falcons only made it to the red zone a tenth fewer times per game but converted 20% less of those trips into six points.
The most notable difference between these two offenses is the play-calling and scheme. Arthur Smith utilizes formations and personnel mismatches. Koetter hardly utilizes these condensed formations that deploy mesh, drive, rub, crossing routes for easy completions. Instead, he literally called verticals an eye-gauging amount of times and developed no sense of rhythm, rhyme, or reason for the play calls.
In the red zone, the Falcons personnel groupings and play-calling were questionable. Koetter deployed 11 personnel (3 WR) over half the snaps in the red zone, while Smith deployed 11 personnel 33% of the time, 12 personnel 21% of the time, 13 personnel 22% of the time. More than 50% of a team’s snaps out of one personnel grouping isn’t bad if the play calling and formations aren’t predictable, but they were — apparent in the success rate of red zone trips.
Success isn’t field goals; outside of a few instances at the end of games or halves, success is scoring touchdowns. Besides Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur, nobody was more efficient in scoring touchdowns than the Titans’ offense was last year.
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