Falcons fun! The wacky ways of a Kyle Shanahan offense

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Tevin Coleman, leading receiver. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

The Atlanta Falcons ran 64 plays against Tampa Bay on Sunday. Twelve either lost yardage or gained nothing. (This number includes sacks, of which there were three, but doesn’t include incomplete passes, of which there were also 12. Nor does it include the kneel-down that ended the first half after the kickoff following Charles Sims III’s touchdown that saw him fake out everyone on the roster.)

Here we stipulate that no team every has had a game where every called play yielded a first down if not a touchdown. Lost-yardage plays happen all the time. But they happened to the Falcons on their first and second drives of the first quarter; their first and second drives of the second quarter; their only two drives of the third quarter and their first and second drives of the fourth quarter. And maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this seems symptomatic of Kyle Shanahan’s offense, such as it is.

Plus side: The Falcons gained 374 yards against Tampa Bay. Minus side: They scored what has become their weekly allotment of touchdowns — one per half. They lost by a touchdown after trailing 31-13. They were 1-for-4, touchdown-wise, in the red zone. Indeed, the game turned when Dan Quinn — not Shanahan; Quinn took credit/blame for this one — ordered a draw play on third-and-goal from the 17 late in the first half.

“We had the points,” Quinn said, speaking of the resulting field goal that gave his team a fleeting 13-10 lead. But three points, duh, are not seven. After Jameis Winston led the Buccaneers downfield and Sims scored his rather amazing touchdown, Tampa Bay was back ahead. It took the second-half kickoff — it had deferred after winning the coin toss — and scored again. Then it scored again.

The Falcons had 18 points to make up. They managed 11. Taking the ball at their 9 with 1:50 left, they mustered one first down and 19 yards. As final possessions go, it was the dampest of squibs.

Back to Shanahan. He dialed up some neat stuff in this game — the inside handoffs, the shovel passes, the dual deployment of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman as virtual wingbacks. That Coleman catching the ball was the best thing the Falcons did proved a nice thing but not necessarily a good thing. See, a running back caught more passes than Julio Jones, who’s the NFL’s best receiver.

The Falcons were 3-for-13 on third down, which brings us back to those lost-or-no-yardage plays. Here were the 10 misses: Third-and-9, third-and-6, third-and-7, third-and-9, the aforementioned third-and-17, third-and-14, third-and-3, third-and-3, third-and-8 and third-and-10. Shanahan’s curlicues would either pop big or get blown up. The whole thing seemed … disjointed.

After the Falcons pulled within 10 after Ryan found Jones for a touchdown and Mohamed Sanu for a 2-point conversion, you thought, “Matt Ryan’s getting into one of those grooves.” Like in the second half in Green Bay on Monday night two years ago. Like the second half in Dallas last September. But come the climactic possession, Ryan’s mellow had been harshed, if I’m allowed to lapse into hippie-speak. One completion to Jacob Tamme. Then four incompletions. Ballgame.

I don’t doubt that Shanahan has a fine football mind. I do doubt — even more after Sunday’s loss — that he’s the right OC for Ryan. (I wonder what Quinn really thinks, not that Mr. Bright Side would tell us.) Stat-wise, Ryan had a nice game: 334 yards passing, no turnovers, a passer rating of 112.6. But his team scored its two touchdowns and lost to an opponent that scored four.

The game in miniature: With 6:18 remaining and the Falcons down by 10, Freeman burst up the middle for seven yards to the TB 6. That was a nice call. The Falcons could have done anything on second-and-three. (Throwing to a tight end off play-action is always nice.) They chose a toss-sweep to Freeman that lost five yards. On a day when their offensive line delivered the mildest of surges, they chose a toss-sweep. Wow.

They wound up — stop me if you’ve heard this before — not scoring a touchdown. Drawing within three points of a road team playing behind a second-year quarterback would have changed the dynamics. By managing only a field goal, the Falcons put Tampa Bay under pressure but not quite duress. The Bucs generated two first downs and bled off three minutes and forced Quinn to exhaust his timeouts before they punted.

Dirk Koetter and Famous Jameis managed the game. It was unclear what Shanahan and Quinn managed, except to lose.

Super informative reading:

The Falcons open the season by laying an egg.

The more I see, the more I doubt the Falcons.

The Falcons’ past (Koetter and Smitty) could enhance the Bucs’ future.

You call it: Quinn/Shanahan/Ryan or Koetter/Smitty/Jameis?

Reader Comments 0

72 comments
Smitty ain't in ATL
Smitty ain't in ATL

I would wear my Bag...  But I $h!t in it while watching the Tampa Game!!  Fire Shanahan!

ltrudou
ltrudou

IT'S TIME TO WEAR THE BAGS!!!!!!!!!!!

Cousingeorgestone
Cousingeorgestone

Most of us bet against the Falcons in this one, at least those of us paying attention to how they continue to flounder under Blank, Rich McKay, Dummytroff, Quinn and Shanahan.  One simply has to point the finger at the abject failures of all of them collectively in leading this team straight down the drain yet again.


It is simply unfathomable that they still HAVE NO PASS RUSH, still HAVE NO RUNNING GAME, still HAVE NO DEFENSE and still HAVE NO OFFENSIVE LINE.   Whose fault is that?   Who decided a lightweight numbnuts like Vic Beasley merited a #1 pick. Who picked Peria Jerry?  Who picked Rashede Hageman, Jalen Collins, and so on and so on.   I don't know which is worse, the fact that Quinn and Dimitroff AGREED on Beasely or that they continue to believe in him!!


And what's with this penchant for undersized runnning backs. Sure was nice watching a real back like DeAngelo Williams run for the Steelers last night as well as a real OC calling plays.  Anybody else think the Falcons could use a back like Williams?   We know dumb and dumber don't.


Lastly, listening to Quinn spew on and on about the failure to "finish" is now analagous to Fredi G's "tip your cap" line.  They both make me want to hurl.

ATLFan
ATLFan

Hi Mark. I'll admit that I've spent more time than I should reading fan comments and blogs over the past 24 hours, seeing perspectives all over the place about what's wrong with the Falcons and what should be done. But the one thing on which there is almost 100% agreement is that we have the wrong Offensive Coordinator and offensive scheme for our franchise QB (just as you said in your article). And I'm not just talking about ravings of angry fans. Most of what I'm reading are well thought out comments, like yours, concluding that it's just a bad fit. I'm not stretching the truth by saying it has become axiomatic with the fan base. 


My question is to you, and all the AJC sports writers covering the Falcons really, is DO COACH QUINN AND MR. BLANK REALLY NOT GET THIS? 


Early in my corporate life, I once had a problem employee. I was new to supervising and not sure what to do. Finally our company president came to me and said "You know, this is beginning to reflect on you." That's when I knew what had to be done.


Perhaps that is the message Coach Quinn and Mr Blank need to start hearing.

Paul-jr
Paul-jr

Shannhan is a dead end street for the falcons

Gman84
Gman84

Has Shanahan been successful anywhere? Why is he here?

Tim_Parker
Tim_Parker

An Open Letter to Arthur Blank from Long Suffering REAL Fans:


Dear Mr. Blank:


We the REAL fans want to share with you our frustration. We had high hopes when you bought the team. You promised to provide a  championship caliber team.  Coming from a  strong business background as one of the founders of Home Depot, we became excited and saw you as a savior for this team.  After all, the Smiths had done nothing with the franchise in 36 years but alienate the fan base. Granted, since purchasing the team, you have spent money, something the Smith's were unwilling and/or unable to do, but in the past 14 years, it has been a roller coaster ride with only one back-to-back winning season. 


It is becoming obvious to us that looks and sounds are valued over substance: Classic show car versus race car. You fired a Hall of Fame coach that refused to pander to you and tried to provide you solid advice.  Instead of providing Dan Reeves the power he needed to improve what was a Super Bowl caliber team, you forced out one of the winning-est coaches in the NFL while parading around a "reported" herpes ridden, pot smoking, dog killing thug masking himself as a human being. Then you compounded that mistake by hiring an immature son-of-a-football-coach for name recognition after being rejected by a real football coach who read between the lines of your actions. Once his immaturity caught up with him and the team that Dan Reeves built fell apart, you hired a substance-less big-name college coach who was at least smart enough to bolt after seeing the dearth of talent, media circus, and impending train wreck that was the team with whom he never connected. Then, you rewarded a GM that actually knew what he was doing with personnel and replaced him with another youthful glory boy who at best is fair at drafting skill position players but doesn't have a clue on how to draft and supplement in free agency the most important element of any championship team: LINEMEN. By the way, I think you may be catching on: You fired the wrong guys. Mike Smith and company were not the problem, DUMITROLF WAS AND IS. 


Take off the blinders, remove the filters, and look at what you have: another young pretty boy charismatic coach that owes his success to an elder GM/Head Coach that knows football, the same idiot GM, scouts with proven backgrounds for finding occasional mid-late round talent, and a mixed bag of assistant coaches that run the gamut from stars (RB, WR, LB, OL coaches) to duds (the rest, especially Bryan Cox).


Soon, if you do hire a REAL GM and let the football people do their magic, all you will be left with will be the fair weathered "fans" that right now you so richly deserve. It sickens us REAL fans to see  opposing team's jerseys litter the stadium in your precious box seats and prime season ticket holder's seats (purchased for profit and sold to  visiting team's fans, delighted in buying cheap tickets) while the REAL fans scream the hearts out while languishing in the background from the nose bleed seats or at home. Do you really want to win a championship team? If so, sit your behind in the owner's box, hire effective football people and let them run the show, examine who deserves those prime seats, and fire up the base, instead of pumping in artificial sound. Show loyalty to the  REAL fans, put substance in front of appearance and become a race car instead of a show car.


Sincerely,

The REAL Fans

TOJacket
TOJacket

A little too long.....but heartfelt.

jayfo68
jayfo68

Except we had five straight winning seasons from 2008 through 2012. Seemed so long ago.

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

Seattle still has the best D in the NFL two years removed from Quinn.  In other words, maybe it was the players that make the Seattle D and not the Boy Wonder Quinn.  It was easy to get enamored with the hot coach on the hot team but it was more infatuation as it seems than true love. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Towner

Your points are solid. But I've never associated Quinn with charisma.

SuwaneeMike
SuwaneeMike

@MaybeMaybeNot You nailed it.  It is the Seattle talent.  Pete Carroll had an advantage in identifying undervalued college players from his days at USC.  He is not a great defensive scheme coach but a charisma guy like Quinn tries to be.  That's okay if you have the talent.  Seattle does.  Atlanta does not.  We need someone who can develop talent not just tell guys to play fast and finish.

patriotdog
patriotdog

firing Reeves after playing a season with Doug Johnson subbing for injured Vick was wrongheaded.  Firing Smitty after allowing Dimitroff to deplete the roster in favor of a fantasy league roster was equally wrongheaded.  Smitty will do well in Tampa, and he and Koetter will enjoy whipping Atl for several seasons.  More ineptitude by a franchise that cannot seem to get out of its own way. 

POV1948
POV1948

If only Arthur could make his coaches and players perform for him like the politicians do

loulo
loulo

to many crossing routes forJones and Matt Ryan throwing behind receivers.

dtanner311
dtanner311

quinn is in over his head had great talent at seattle made him look smarter than he is

Freddy73
Freddy73

The defense is still our biggest problem.  Absolutely no pass rush and sloppy tackling. Vic Beasley is a bust--zero tackles yesterday. Nothing from Freeney. Quinn is all rahrah but no substance--he says all the things that Blank wants to hear  but he can't coach them up.  Seattle hasn't missed him. 

Tim_Parker
Tim_Parker

@UGA3 You can't play 2-gap with smurfs. Like she said, size matters.

garls2662
garls2662

Although we all want to be optimistic, our chances for a play off season are minimal at best.  I wouldn't be so quick to lay everything at the feet of KS.  Bring in any other OC in the league and you're probably going to see the same result.  TD over paid an average QB at best with 1 playoff win and now we're stuck with him for at least 2 more seasons.  Weak arm and continuously looks rattled in the pocket along with a diminishing skill set does not lead to a promising outlook for this team.  Defense needs to start doing different blitz packages or generally get off their a** and get after the other team's QB.  Beasley is a bust and will gone by the end of next season if not sooner.  I like DQ but I'm afraid he has his limitations.

Gatorzone
Gatorzone

Great Job Arthur to Keep that idiot TD and let Smith and Koetter go...  More years of obscurity coming to the ATL

SuwaneeMike
SuwaneeMike

There are so many problems with this team right now....We're maybe closer to Cleveland than I like to admit....


I'm so tired of watching other team's O-line and D-line dominate us.  Winston had a clean pocket way too much yesterday.  I'm down on Matt Ryan but our offensive line was really lousy all day.  Ryan doesn't have the arm strength to complete passes that he doesn't have time to step into (ala Newton, Wison, Rodgers, Brady, Winston, etc..).  So you have to run an offensive system that allows for that limitation.  Quinn and Shanny are too stubborn to make adjustments in order to maximize the capabilities of the talent in house.


I was hoping that the Falcons would hire Todd Bowles and to read that the jets had 7 sacks yesterday against a good Bengals team makes my head explode.  Instead we hired the supposedly "charismatic" but totally unproven Quinn to be the east coast version of pete carroll.  Carroll obviously has far superior talent evaluation than Quinn.  Quinn has no coaching skills or schematic skills that I can tell.  His strategy is to rotate the heck out of the front 7 defensively in the name of being fresh and fast.  The effect of that is that your best players are often caught off the field in critical times.


Quinn also values unchecked aggression over discipline as we see the penalties pile up.


I really feel sorry for Julio Jones as he is a generational type player who seems like a really good person, and he is having to work in this train wreck of an organization.  Like so many before him....Claude Humphrey, Tommy Nobis, etc...


Can't wait for the Oakland game next week..

UGA76
UGA76

@Towner

I agree except Ryan could QB a team to win a Super Bowl in the right offense.  The guard play on this team continues to be horrible.  Did anyone notice when Atlanta went to the no huddle and Ryan called his own plays, Atlanta drove right down the field for a score and never ran it again.  Was Shanahan afraid that if Ryan drove the team to another score that he would be exposed as an inept clown.  His Quarterback killer reputation seems to be well earned after 17 games.    

I've said before the season, 4-12 is a realistic possibility.   The best hope for this team is to be 2-8 at the break and then Mr. Blanks can fire Dimitroff and tell Quinn he will loose all of his roster and player personnel responsibilities.  In addition, the new GM will decide his fate as the head coach.  If Quinn is silly enough to leave then hire an interim HC.  An early start to hiring a FOOTBALL man as the GM is a must.  

The really bad news is the roster is going to have to be blown up.  The last two drafts were as horrible as everyone said they were at the time.  Jarrett will be the only player even in the NFL from the 2015 class after 3 years when their contracts expire.  The 2016 draft is also a mess.  Jones and Neal are too small for their position to play in the NFL.  Neal is already missing games and Jones won't last the season. So far Hopper has brick hands and can't block. I'd plug Wes Schweitzer into one of the guard positions and hope for the best.   Campbell might be the only one from this class playing in 3 years when their rookie contracts expire.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Towner: ". . . this train wreck of an organization."

__________________

Even sadder is the fact that every pro team in town for the past half-century can be similarly described--except for the '95 Braves.

Thrasherfan
Thrasherfan

Not trying to be a reactionary after only one game but I honestly think that the Falcons at most will win  four games this season with a maximum of six being the ceiling. This stems from three reasons: 1. Matt Ryan is regressing not progressing. Shanahan's system does not put him in positions or plays where he is at his best. Plus, I feel he has reached his peak and is on the downhill. 2. The bedrock of a football team is their lines and the Falcons have neither. There is no pass rush at all and the offensive line creates no push to establish the running game. And lastly, 3. I am not sold on Dan Quinn. I think he is a fine coordinator but over his head as a head coach. Reminds me of Norv Turner..great OC but lousy as a head coach.  I hope I am wrong but I have seen nothing since mid last year that rings up any different.



Lakeside97
Lakeside97

Matt Ryan has 1 playoff win (barely) in 10 seasons, yet enjoys a $100 million-dollar contract.  Must be nice.

khd713
khd713

I think there's a good chance Quinn and Shanahan don't survive the season.

TOJacket
TOJacket

New stadium new coach!.....I like it!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@khd713

Dream on.

ATL teams have never been known to make timely/needed management changes that appear to be obvious to everyone except them.

AMFILMSHD
AMFILMSHD

no one wants to watch field goals in person.  Blank better fire shanahan before he loses the fans-permanently for good.  with a new stadium and lagging PSL sales, and a weak team.   the falcons owner has a huge problem.  do you fire dan quinn and start over?  do you fire KS? (yes) and do you get rid of ryan in 2017? (yes, it's time).


ok kids did you get all that in one hand minute?  our team is in worse shape than the US.  

TideDawg
TideDawg

Maybe the increased "speed" of the team means they can lose faster. Best I can remember you're supposed to tackle the guy with the ball....not wave at him as he goes by.

TideDawg
TideDawg

It looked like Tampa Bay was the motivated team, not to mention the more talented team. That was one of the games the Falcons were supposed to win. It's tough to judge play calling when execution is so poor but the players just don't appear to have any confidence in the offensive plan. Two of those old veterans, Weatherspoon and Freeney, are probably thinking "Only 15 games to go".

Gatorzone
Gatorzone

@TideDawg  How were they "supposed to win?"  TB swept the Falcons last year...

Lachlan Neymar
Lachlan Neymar

This will be a refrain until KS leaves town. Ryan had a good day (not great) yesterday, but the entire offense never got into rhythm because the play calling was silly. And why would you think you could run a shovel pass more than once against a team coached by Koetter and Smith? That's their only play in the red zone.

Winston had at least two more TD's in him, but Koetter managed the game conservatively with the lead and trusted his defense. So don't be fooled by Tampa's relative lack of production in the fourth quarter. It was NOT due to "adjustments."


The defensive players appeared to be in place most of the day, so I can't blame the coaching staff there. Mostly Falcons defenders were outplayed in individual match-ups. But I do blame the coaching staff for what appeared to be an overemphasis on trying to strip the ball and create turnovers when really they just needed to tackle the ball carrier. There were multiple times when Mike Evans had 10 or 15 YAC while three defenders ran with him trying to punch/pull the ball out instead of taking him to the ground. I know Dan Quinn's guys in Seattle got rich off turnovers. But this isn't Seattle. Turnovers are caused by smart athletic defenders and luck. Our young guys need to focus on tackling. Leave the fancy stuff to guys like Truffant. And don't worry about Alford. He'll start making splashy plays as soon as he gives up on his team and starts peeking in the backfield instead of covering.  


One other thing, why would you continue to bring back a marketing tag line that has been with the team through disappointing playoff appearances followed by seasons in which visiting fans were at times louder in the Dome than the locals? Anyway, until we have something better, Rise Up!

ctfalconsfan
ctfalconsfan

4 trips to the red zone and only 1 TD plus 0 sacks!


So what has been going on (or rather not) in Flowery Branch since January???


Absolutely 0 change from last season.

tlmaddox
tlmaddox

At least my Sunday afternoon schedule has now opened up for the next few months.

Thomas K
Thomas K

Matt Ryan throws more short dump off passes on third down than anyone Ive ever seen. It worked one time when Tamme managed to scramble for the 1st down, he was covered up.

Our $100m franchise QB is slow footed, inaccurate, with a weak arm and no guts to throw downfield. You can't blame Shanahan for that. I doubt his Playbook is designed to be 80% dump off passes to running backs.

Look at his combine numbers. He has always had a weak arm. This goes all the way to the Falcons front office. They don't make good decisions.

moboman
moboman

@Thomas K Compare to Winstons two long TD passes.  Thats how you win ball games, instead of padding your stats with dump off passes. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Thomas K: "Matt Ryan throws more short dump off passes on third down than anyone Ive ever seen."

__________________

BINGO!

It's called the "di*k and dunk" offense, and it's a nauseating thing to watch.

gt51
gt51

those sweep and toss plays lost yardage the entire game.  i believe the falcons just overcame a negative play on an outside run on the set of downs before that sweep play bradley is referring to.  you can't overcome negative plays and a regular basis in the nfl.  

SuwaneeMike
SuwaneeMike

@gt51 You are spot-on GT51.  The toss sweep almost never works in the NFL.  Far too much speed on defenses.   And yet that's what we run inside the 10 when defenses are even more compressed and able to react to the outside faster.  I'm no football genius but even I would know that can't be the play call in that situation.

UGA76
UGA76

@gt51 Wrong.  Go look up the history of Shanahan's offense.  His reputation as a QB killer is well known in the league.  Ryan ran the plays that Shanahan called.  What happened when Ryan was in the no huddle offense and called his own plays?