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Running the Numbers: A Look at Atlanta’s Offensive Tendencies
Every week, coaches study countless hours of film in an effort to glean extra information about the upcoming opponent. Regardless of how the video is broken down, the ultimate goal is to uncover some sort of tendency that could lead to a competitive advantage. By playing the percentages, coaches can place their players in optimal positions to succeed more often than not. Having said that, check out a few of the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive tendencies in 2012:
- The Falcons have run a play-action pass on 19.1 percent of Matt Ryan’s dropbacks. Like most NFL quarterbacks, Ryan has posted a higher passer rating (117.8) and YPA (8.5) on play-action passes than straight dropbacks. The same is true of Tony Romo, although I’ve counted the Cowboys as running play-action on just 8 percent of snaps in 2012. No team has a rate of play-action passes lower than that of the Cowboys, while the Falcons rank in the middle of the pack.
- Although the Falcons’ offense is explosive, Ryan has just 26 attempts that have traveled at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. Fifteen of those are to Julio Jones. In comparison, Romo is near the bottom of the NFL in deep passing rate and still has 31 passes of 20 or more yards on the season. While it may seem otherwise, the Falcons don’t generally attack defenses down the field.
- The Falcons have passed the ball on 51.7 percent of their first downs, more than the league average of 48.5 percent. As I mentioned last week, NFL teams could generally benefit from an increase in first down pass rate. Atlanta, a team that has recently embraced the new-age statistical revolution in the NFL, has subsequently increased their first down pass rate dramatically from 2011, when it was just 43.7 percent. The offense has averaged 7.4 YPA on first down passes, compared to just 3.54 YPC on first-down runs.
- Atlanta has managed to convert a first down on just 19.6 percent of their first down plays, below the league average of 21.1 percent. The reason is that the Falcons often take their shots downfield on first down, and with much success. While only 3.1 percent of all NFL first downs have resulted in plays of 25 or more yards in 2012, the Falcons’ rate of 25-plus yard first down plays is 4.8 percent. Thus, the ’Boys need to be weary of deep play-action looks on first down.
- On second-and-1 and second-and-2, most offensive coordinators around the league dial up a run to move the chains. They’ve done so 62.9 percent of the time in 2012, compared to just 53.3 percent for Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Again, Atlanta plays the percentages on second-and-short, astutely taking shots downfield when the downside of an incompletion is minimal. An amazing 28.6 percent of their second-and-short passes have gone for at least 25 yards, compared to a league average of 7.6 percent.
- The Falcons average 7.54 yards-to-go on second down, compared to the league average of 7.90. Despite the shorter distance, Atlanta has passed the ball on 65.8 percent of their second-down plays. Matt Ryan’s 75.8 percent completion rate on second down is the highest in the NFL for any starting quarterback, as is his 118.6 passer rating.
- The Falcons’ average distance to go on third down has been 6.33, nearly a full yard better than the league average. That’s a major reason why the Falcons have converted on 46.6 percent of their third down plays, a higher rate than all but two teams. Only two starting NFL quarterbacks have a third down completion rate superior to Matt Ryan’s 66.1 percent.
- When the Falcons run outside, they like to do so behind right tackle Tyson Clabo. Of their 69 runs outside of the tackles, 40 have gone to the right side of the field. They’ve averaged 4.8 YPC when running outside of Clabo, compared to 3.8 YPC everywhere else.