FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As Gillette Stadium continued to be suffocated by fog, the Falcons' offense was held to just seven points against a Patriots' defense that allowed 26.5 points per game entering Sunday night, the third-highest mark in the league.
The Falcons had success in moving the ball against the Patriots, but most of those yards turned out to be fruitless in the end. While offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was under fire for much of the game on social media, Atlanta had its chances at several points throughout the game.
A pair of missed field goals – one blocked and one that bounced off the left upright – left six points off the scoreboard and two missed opportunities on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 cost the Falcons more points.
It's easy to look back at several moments in the game as opportunities that were missed or negative plays that turned out to have a big impact, but nobody inside or outside of the organization wants to see this team leave a game having scored just one touchdown.
Atlanta gained 120 yards on the ground, averaging a strong 5.5 yards per carry, and Matt Ryan completed 70 percent of his passes for 233 yards and a touchdown to Julio Jones, who finished with 99 yards on nine catches.
On the surface, those numbers aren't the sort fans became accustomed to seeing from this unit last year. But they aren't awful, either, and should have resulted in more than seven points.
So, what held the Falcons' offense back?
Their efficiency on third and fourth down as well as in the red zone is the ultimate takeaway from tonight's offensive performance. Atlanta was just 2-of-9 on third down against New England, a 22 percent conversion rate, and only 1-of-3 on fourth down.
Of their four trips in the red zone, the Falcons' offense scored points on just one of them – the final possession of the game.
This is a unit that has actually been very strong in the efficiency-aspects of the game so far this year. Atlanta entered Sunday night converting 45.45 percent of its third-down chances, the third-best mark in the NFL, and scoring on 60 percent of its trips to the red zone, tied for sixth-best.
The Falcons' haven't yet played up to their potential in every phase of the offense so far this season, but, as always, the numbers provide a little insight into what we saw unfold on Sunday night. Against New England, Atlanta had just two three-and-outs and nearly half of its drives covered over 50 yards. The Falcons moved the ball on Sunday night, but they couldn't make the most of the opportunities they worked to provide for themselves.