Just a few days away from the season opener, coach Mike Smith acknowledges that there are three glaring red flags of concern for his Atlanta Falcons team that he will be addressing immediately.
Going 0-4 in the preseason is not ideally what a coach has in mind, nor is it really a huge cause for concern as it is just an exhibition games that allows teams to see the potential of certain players. That said, what did catch his attention is how his team lacked discipline and executed poorly in three key phases of the game.
Penalties was a huge problem for the Falcons, as they had a tough time not getting penalized by the men in white and black uniforms. The Falcons managed to get 27 penalties for an incredible 252 yards. During the 2012-13 NFL regular season, the Falcons set an NFL record for fewest accepted penalties in a 16-game season.
The Falcons were penalized only 55 times in 2012, where the New England Patriots had the previous record with 57. Before setting the record in penalties received, the Falcons were also second in the record books, as they were penalized only 58 times in 2010.
In 2012, the Falcons broke another record, as they had the fewest penalty yards with a total of 415 in 16 games.
The second area of concern the coach brought up was the Falcons’ third-down efficiency. During their exhibition games, the Falcons converted only 20 of 62 (32.3 percent) on third downs against their opponents. Whether it is a preseason game or not, that is a horrendous percentage.
The Falcons converted 92 of 204 (45.1 percent) third downs last season, which was second to the Patriots, who converted 49 percent of their third downs. Once again, for a team that is usually very good at converting third downs, posting those type of numbers in four preseason games is concerning to say the least.
Last but not least, the third area that made Smith shake his head was the Falcons’ red zone efficiency. One of the main problems last season was the Falcons’ inability to score touchdowns in the red zone, which proved to be the Achilles’ heel for them in 2012.
In four preseason games, the Falcons managed to score just three times in 11 trips to the promised land. Last season, the Falcons ranked 10th in the league, where they scored 57.9 percent of the time.
Smith knows that his Falcons are far from perfect, but seeing his Falcons be sloppy in areas where they usually perform at a high level has been frustrating. With their first game against the revitalized New Orleans Saints, Smith is believing that his Falcons will be more disciplined in terms of execution in these three key areas of the game.