Falcons again lack production in red zone

The team netted nine points from five trips inside Eagles’ 20-yard line

The Falcons blew another game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.

The Falcons went down the same way they did in the playoff game roughly eight months ago, by not scoring in the red zone.

After not scoring from the 2-yard line in the divisional round of the playoffs on Jan. 13, the Falcons spent their time first soul-searching, reviewing went wrong, coming up with a plan to fix their red-zone woes and then working on their new plan of attack.

But the new plan of attack looked a lot like the old plan of attack and it netted a similar result, an 18-12 loss, with the Falcons throwing into the same end zone at the buzzer.

The Falcons were 1-of-5 on trips inside the red zone in the season-opening loss. The only touchdown was a 9-yard run by running back Tevin Coleman. They also had a 21-yard field goal by Matt Bryant for a total of nine points. Bryant hit the right goal post on the extra point attempt after the touchdown. 

Coach Dan Quinn didn’t have any answers after this latest red-zone meltdown, but he was clear this was unacceptable from offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and the offensive players. 

“Our ability to score down there has to change,” Quinn said. 

Last season, the Falcons were 49.18 percent in the red zone, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. 

Quinn wasn’t ready to do a blow-by-blow analysis of the offense’s latest failure. 

“We are going to go back and look for sure,” Quinn said. “We’ve put a good bit of work in there and we still have more to do. By no means does this game determine ... that’s part of our game that we’ve got to get right if we are going to be really good.”

The Falcons tried to run some three-tight end power.

They tried to run behind their new fullback, which might have worked if running back Devonta Freeman didn’t cutback into the line and run into powerful Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

At the end, just like in the playoff game, they were in five-receiver formations, trying to heave the ball up to dynamic wide receiver Julio Jones. 

Over the past two seasons, Ryan is 1-of-20 when targeting Jones in the end zone. This is something they could have worked on if Jones had played in the exhibition season. 

But because of Jones’ history of soft-tissue injuries, the Falcons didn’t play Jones at all in the four exhibition games.

“We are not speaking on last year,” Jones said. “This is one game. We are going to keep working. I believe in it. (Those) are my teammates. I’m with them every day. I know the work we put in to be good down there. Like I said, we went against a great defense today. My hat is off to them.”

Again, Jones turned in a spectacular game between the 20s. He finished with 10 catches on 19 targets for 169 yards and no touchdowns. 

On the first trip, Jones was not even on the field after the Falcons got to the 6-yard line, which led to a #FireSark Twitter meltdown.

“Nobody was in,” Jones said. “We were in goal line. It was just our goal line. I’m comfortable with every call that we make. My job is go out there and execute and do my best when it’s my time.”

Again, Jones was not troubled by the 1-of-5 red-zone numbers. He chose to credit the Eagles.

“This a good defense,” Jones said. “Miscues and things like that, but overall that was just a good defense. We just have to keep working on it.”

Jones felt the last play was a good call because he was going against man-to-man coverage.

“I’ve got to go back and watch it, but I feel good against anybody one on one,” Jones said. 

Quarterback Matt Ryan liked the final play, too. 

“They had kind of three-over-two coverage on our two guys,” Ryan said. “We kind of ran a little switch/release deal to get Julio an opportunity. I haven’t seen it. I didn’t see it. I was on the ground. I’ll be able to give you a better answer when I get to see it.”

Ryan didn’t want to tie this red-zone meltdown to the other 18 games that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian called last season. 

“It’s one game,” Ryan said, ignoring that the problem has persisted over 19 games. “That’s the sample size that we have right now. It’s disappointing that we didn’t make them tonight, but it’s not a season of not scoring touchdowns. I’m disappointed that we didn’t make them, but I really believe that we are going to make them moving forward. We are going to continue to work on them, too.”

Ryan would not consider what appears to be so obvious to many onlookers.

“I still am confident,” Ryan said. “(Thursday night), it didn’t play out that way. But we have put in a lot of really good work. And, again, we are going to make those plays as we move forward for sure.”

The timing was off on more than a few plays. Also, the play calling appeared suspect at times.

“It’s all of the above,” Ryan said before launching into a defense of Sarkisian. “We have the play calls. I think Sark did a nice job with that today. ... back to work to improve some of the timing as players.” 

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