CHARLOTTE -- The Falcons (4-4) have prioritized third-down and red-zone situations over the last couple of weeks in practice. While they were perfect inside of the red zone on Sunday during their 20-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers (6-3), the Falcons' offense couldn't get much going on third downs.
Atlanta converted just 33 percent (4-of-12) of its third-down opportunities against Carolina. More troublesome, was the Falcons' struggles in short-yardage situations.
Seven times on Sunday afternoon the Falcons needed just one yard to pick up a fresh set of downs. On those opportunities, Atlanta was stopped for no gain four times and had one sack for a loss of five yards. Only two of the seven and-1 chances resulted in positive yards for Atlanta, and the aggregate yardage total in those situations added up to zero yards.
"Anytime you don't convert you get disappointed, especially when you think you have the right play call to execute it to go and attack," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said after the game. "We wanted to stay aggressive, we did, but for us not to convert there, it was disappointing."
Possibly the most impactful of those series came near the end of the second quarter. Holding a 10-0 lead, the Falcons twice ran the ball on third- and fourth-and-1. Twice they were stopped for no gain.
On the fourth-down run, tight end Austin Hooper was flagged for a personal foul penalty, moving the ball 15 yards in Carolina's favor and setting up the Panthers at the 50-yard line. Cam Newton and the Panthers' offense covered the remaining distance in six plays, scoring on a 4-yard run by Christian McCaffrey.
The short-yardage stop by Carolina helped flip the momentum of the game and sparked a 14-point run for the Panthers heading into halftime.
"We love the opportunity to go for it in those situations, based on the runners and how we attack," Quinn said. "We didn't get the job done at the line of scrimmage, for sure."
As the Falcons tried to respond in the second half, the offense continued to have difficulty picking up that last, final yard for a new set of downs.
Both of Atlanta's possessions in the third quarter ended in a three-and-out after the offense failed to convert on an and-1 situation. In the third quarter, the Falcons had the ball for just three minutes and 15 seconds, gaining a total of seven yards.
With a tough slate of games ahead, including a pair of non-division matchups against the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys, the Falcons will continue to work on executing in third-down situations.
"The area we want to emphasize, it's completely on us," Quinn said. "It's our 2017 team, we've got eight games under our belt under the same roof, and we've got much that we want to work on. For us, third down being one of those. We'll continue to work on that part of our game."