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Analysis: Breaking down Atlanta's red-zone conversion rate in Week 1 win, why it matters moving forward

The Falcons were one of three teams to have a 100% red-zone conversion rate in Week 1. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — A quartet of teams were red hot in the red zone in Week 1 of the 2023 season, and they are all undefeated heading into Week 2.

That includes the Atlanta Falcons.

En route to their 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, the Falcons cashed all three of their red-zone visits into touchdowns. It just so happens the three other perfect teams – Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers, who the Falcons host Sunday (1 p.m. FOX) in Mercedes-Benz Stadium – ended up with the exact same stat line.

"In my opinion, you want to get down there seven or eight times," Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith said. "That's a high goal. That's usually not what happens."

He's right. The most red-zone appearances the Falcons had in 2022 was five in Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals. Atlanta scored on just two of those appearances but still managed to pull out the win.

That goes to show that a 100% red-zone conversion rate isn't required to win, but the same goes vice versa. A 100% red-zone conversion rate doesn't guarantee a victory either.

In 2022, the Falcons had three games with a clean red-zone record. They went 1-2 in those shows.

Opening flawless like Atlanta did against Carolina is still a good thing, though, because last year, the Falcons' strongest red-zone games didn't come until Weeks 5-7. And by the end of that run, the Falcons were 3-4.

They're 1-0 right now.

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It's worth dissecting the three red-zone situations against the Panthers since they're what led to all three of the Falcons' touchdowns.

The first one overlapped between the first and second quarters, set up by an interception from Falcons safety Jessie Bates III. Atlanta was already at Carolina's 17-yard line when the offense took the field, and it took just three plays to make it into the end zone:

-- Q1, 1-10-CAR17: QB Desmond Ridder 1-yard pass to RB Bijan Robinson.

-- Q1, 2-9-CAR16: RB Bijan Robinson 5-yard run.

-- Q2, 3-4-CAR11: QB Desmond Ridder 11-yard pass to RB Bijan Robinson, TOUCHDOWN.

The next scoring drive spanned the third and fourth quarters and was credit to another defensive turnover by Bates, this time a forced fumble. The Falcons began their drive at their own 39-yard line, and used five plays to break into the Panthers' red zone and then another two to score once there.

-- Q4, 1-4-CAR4: RB Tyler Allgeier 1-yard run.

-- Q4, 2-3-CAR3: RB Tyler Allgeier 3-yard run, TOUCHDOWN.

The final series – obviously – came in the fourth quarter alone, and it was partially in thanks to the Falcons' defense again, since it forced the Panthers to go three-and-out. The drive began at the Atlanta 44-yard line. The Falcons needed four plays to reach the r zone and then sealed the deal with another 1-2 punch.

-- Q4, 1-7-CAR-7: RB Tyler Allgeier 4-yard run.

-- Q4, 2-3-CAR3: RB Tyler Allgeier 3-yard run, TOUCHDOWN.

All of this to say: The Falcons' running backs really delivered in the red zone Sunday.

"I call that last-mile delivery inside the five," Smith said. "There's some guys that have it, some guys that don't. When you look at the really good red-zone teams, when I've been a part of the really good red-zone teams, you got guys that can punch that ball in. We got a lot of guys that can do that now, so that makes you a lot better in the red zone."

And that, right there, has been a point of emphasis for the Falcons since late last season.

Atlanta closed out 2022 with a 30-for-54 success rate in the red zone. That ranked the team 14th overall in the NFL, tied with the Rams and Denver Broncos. None of them had a winning record – 7-10 Falcons, 5-12 Rams and Broncos – nor did they make the playoffs.

The Dallas Cowboys boasted the best conversation rate, 40 of 56. They made it to the divisional round and finished 12-5.

The Kansas City Chiefs (14-3) claimed the second-best mark (50 of 72) and won the Super Bowl. Their title opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles (14-3), were third (40 of 59).

It's actually quite simple.

"You try to score touchdowns," Smith said. "You try to win the game."

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