FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Now halfway through the season, the Falcons have a firm grasp of this year's team and the challenges they must overcome.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is constantly evaluating his unit, which still remains among the league's best on a per-play basis. Although they've had success on a play-by-play basis, Sarkisian says he'd like to see more consistency from the offense over the course of an entire game.
"We've been explosive on offense and I think it shows up in numbers, but you feel it," Sarkisian said after Thursday's practice. "We have the ability in games to get yards in chunks. I think the one thing, for me, is the value of consistency for us throughout four quarters of the game. I feel like every game so far we've had a play – two, three, four – here and there that have really hindered our kind of consistency on offense and overall success on offense.
"So, I think that's something we're really striving for, obviously heading into this game, and into the second half of the season. That consistency regardless of the situation, whether it's a third-down situation, red-zone, goal-line, whatever that may be. Our consistency and what we're doing, why we're doing it and then, ultimately, the execution of it."
'You create your own luck through your preparation'
The Falcons have been able to move the ball this season, but they've come up short in key situations such as third downs and in the red zone.
Some of the problems can be attributed to a lack of execution at critical times, but it also appears Atlanta has had some tough breaks this season. Regardless, Sarkisian isn't focused on getting a bad bounce, he believes preparation is key to avoiding those bad bounces.
"At the end of the day, you create your own luck through your preparation," Sarkisian said. "Whether or not the ball has bounced our way really is irrelevant. We have to put ourselves in the best position to be successful. That starts in the meeting room; that goes right to the practice field; then ultimately it takes itself to the stadium on Sundays. It's our job as coaches to put these guys in the best position all week in preparation for the game, so we can hand them the ball and let them go play and do their thing on Sunday. That's what we keep striving to do, that's the process we pride ourselves on and we'll continue to do that. And at some point that dam will break, and it's going to turn and we might get some of those breaks. But we need to create those breaks on our own by doing what we need to do in our process."
Third-down situations remain an area of emphasis
In last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons had seven chances to pick up just 1 yard for a new set of downs. They converted two of those opportunities.
Third-down situations have remained an area of emphasis for Atlanta this season, as well as coming away with points on trips to the red zone. While the Falcons were perfect in the red zone against the Panthers, they still had issues on third down.
"I think that's the challenge, and that's what we continue to work on," Sarkisian said. "I think that's a credit to Dan (Quinn) in identifying where our issues are and then emphasizing those things and putting in the extra work in the short yardage into third down; we emphasize the red area, we went 2-for-2 last week. You get what you emphasize in our profession mostly, and so, if you emphasize something you expect to get results. And I think it will show up in the short-yardage situation, think it will show up in our penalties being reduced and our ability to make those key plays on those third downs, which is important to extend drives. We can't always expect to hit 30-, 40-yard plays, we're going to have to carve out these 10-, 12-play drives and to do that, you need to convert third downs. "I think the challenge, as always for coaches and myself, is there's the play and then there's the players. And I think that's the fine line of the design of the play but making sure you're putting your players that can make those key plays in the right positions to do that. That's what we continue to strive to do, short-yardage is a great example of that."