In the first five seasons of the Mike Smith era, offensive coordinators Mike Mularkey and Dirk Koetter made it nearly a habit of scoring on the team’s first possession.
This season, because of a laundry list of breakdowns, the Falcons have started more than half (5 of 9) of their games by going three downs-and-out. They opened the past four games with a three-and-out before summoning punter Matt Bosher.
Another slow start against Tampa Bay, which has jumped to 21-0 and 15-0 leads in their past two games, and the Falcons will bail water early again.
“Certainly, we want to start fast, and that’s something that we haven’t done a good job of this year,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “That’s something that we prided ourselves on in the past. We have not done a good job of that for whatever reason. I think it’s important to get off to a fast start, get off to a rhythm and establish a little bit of confidence.”
Last week, on third-and-4, right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was shoved to the ground by Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons, who then registered a hit on Ryan. All Ryan could do was throw an early pass low toward running back Steven Jackson to avoid the sack.
“We’ve had some situations where we’ve been in third-and-longs and couldn’t get out that situation when it’s in their favor,” Smith said. “We’ve had some third-and-shorts that we haven’t been able to convert.”
The Falcons scored a touchdown on the opening drive twice this season, against Miami and St. Louis. They opened the New England game with a field goal. They picked up two first downs before punting against New York Jets.