The question of the week since the Falcons win over the Saints last Thursday is if Atlanta's one-for-11 performance on third downs was an anomaly or a bad trend in the making.
Often, your most recent memory influences your current opinion and as a result many believe the Falcons need to improve on third downs because it's a problem area. Head coach Mike Smith and the coaching staff identified third downs as an area they wanted to focus on during the extra days from last Thursday to Sunday, but it's less of a reaction to a problem area and more of cutting off an issue before it becomes one.
In the week prior, the Falcons were 62 percent on third down against the Bucs. That's well above what Smith targets for his team.
“Our goal is to be 45 percent or more," Smith said earlier this week. "If you’re between 40 and 50 percent on third down you’re going to be in the top 25 percent of the league."
During the last three weeks, the Falcons are right at 40 percent. Last week's performance knocked their average a little, but they're still within that range that Smith mentions. After the first four weeks of the season, the Falcons were advancing third downs at 46.94 percent, good for second in the league.
Despite the troubles last week, the Falcons remain in second place in the NFL in third down percentage with a 45.57 rate.
If there's an area involved with third downs that Atlanta has had a problem with, it's conversion percentage at home this season. This year they're converting 35.53 percent, considerably lower than their 54.88 percent on the road.
Last season, the Falcons finished sixth in the league with a 43.46 percent third-down conversion rate.