With four weeks already in the books for the 2013 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons are going prime time once again for Week 5, as they take on the 2-2 New York Jets on Monday Night Football. At 1-3, this is a must-win situation for quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons. If they fail, the Falcons can kiss the NFC South title goodbye, as the New Orleans Saints are currently on cruise control at 4-0.
At the moment, no one, not even Ryan, can explain the offense’s constant hiccups in the second half and in the red zone. If one were to pay no attention to their record and look specifically at their offensive statistics, it could be said they have one of the best passing games in the NFL. Atlanta currently is fourth in the passing category, and Ryan even led the league in Week 4 passing yards with 421. But when you finally put the win/loss column in the mix, it immediately shows there is no balance whatsoever in this offense. It is clear Atlanta needs to go back to their grassroots and strap on their PF Flyers, and hit the ground running.
When Atlanta has an effective, balanced attack, it takes a heavy burden off of Ryan’s shoulders and the defense especially. Against the Miami Dolphins in Week 3, Atlanta’s offense looked near complete, as they dictated the clock with 37 minutes in total time of possession and gave their defense a breather, as they were on the field for under 25 minutes. And although Ryan has earned his nickname of “Matty Ice” from his fourth quarter comebacks, he still needs the balance of a running attack to be lethal in the passing game. When Ryan exceeds 30 passing attempts, his interception to touchdown ratio is 3-to-1, and his QB rating drops considerably to 68.7.
When you take a trip into the past, the Falcons literally ran the show. In 2004 while Michael Vick was under center, the Falcons led the NFL in rushing with 2,672 yards, and even earned themselves a trip to the NFC Championship Game. To flash forward to the feel-good comeback story for the Falcons in 2008, running back Michael Turner led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 17, and Ryan won the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Moving forward, it is imperative Steven Jackson comes back 100 percent for the remainder of the season to put the Dirty Birds back in the driver’s seat. If the Falcons want another shot in the postseason, the running game must be in full-throttle. The Jets’ defense has been solid inside their own 20, only allowing five red-zone touchdowns this season, but they can be had with a more balanced attack. Now is the opportune time to use the running game with Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers in Week 5.