From stats to trends, there are plenty of facts, figures and numbers surrounding the Falcons each week. Some of those figures might surprise you. Some might make you wonder why we keep track of some of this stuff in the first place. Either way, AtlantaFalcons.com managing editor Jay Adams breaks down some of the more interesting numbers in a new feature called "Wing Tips"
Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Under head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have been among the strongest teams in the NFL during the final month of the season, posting a 6-3 record in December and a 6-1 record with quarterback Matt Ryan under center. Since 2008, the Falcons are tied for second in the NFC with a .667 winning percentage in December.
The Falcons have turned the ball over an NFC-low 12 times this season and rank third in the NFL in giveaways. Atlanta put together a franchise-record streak of four straight games without a turnover (Week 9-Week 12). The team's previous best was three straight games — Weeks 11, 12 and 13 of the 2006 season. In the past five games, the Falcons have posted a plus-4 turnover differential, resulting in five wins. Additionally, quarterback Matt Ryan went 185 pass attempts without throwing an interception prior to throwing a pick during Week 13 against the Bucs. Ryan's streak is tied for the second longest in franchise history. The leader is Steve Bartkowski with 197 attempts without a pick.
To give you an idea of how Mike Smith stacks up with the variables of Sunday's game, here are some of his records that could come into play against the Panthers:
Record vs. the NFC: 21-11 * When the Falcons play on the road: 11-11 * When the Falcons play at 1 p.m.: 23-11 * When the Falcons play outdoors: 8-8 * When the Falcons score first: 24-6 * When the Falcons lead at halftime: 24-1 * When the Falcons lead at the start of the fourth quarter: 23-1 * When the Falcons lead in time of possession: 19-5 * When the Falcons' offense gains more than 300 total yards: 22-7 * When the defense holds the opponent to less than 300 total yards: 10-0 * When the Falcons win the turnover battle: 18-1 * When the Falcons are penalized five times or less: 18-10
In the Zone
Putting points on the board when in the red zone is vital to a team's success, and the 2010 Falcons have taken that very seriously. The Falcons have scored 218 points in the red zone, good enough for third in the NFL. Not counting Ryan's red zone kneel-downs, Atlanta has scored on 39 of its 41 red zone drives this year, including 92 of the 135 points the team has scored in the past five games. The Falcons have scored 16 times through the air and nine times on the ground, while kicker Josh Harris has added 14 field goals.
In 2009, the Falcons totaled 28 sacks and outsacked their opponents by a 28-27 margin. Atlanta went 6-0 when outsacking their opponents in 2009 and has recorded a 19-2 mark in such games since 2008. This season, Atlanta has already recorded 20 sacks. The Falcons have registered at least one sack in 11 of their 12 games this season and tallied three in wins over Cleveland and Cincinnati. Eight of the Falcons' 20 sacks have come during the fourth quarter, showing the defense's ability to affect the quarterback late in games.
Linebacker Curtis Lofton notched 10 tackles in the Falcons' Week 13 win over Tampa Bay. It was the 18th time in his career that he totaled double digits in the tackles column. A large part of Lofton's success in his first three seasons in the NFL has been the games in which he has finished with a double-digit tackle total. Lofton has recorded 10 or more tackles in six games this season, including a season-high 17 at Philadelphia. The Falcons are 11-7 when Lofton records 10 tackles or more. Lofton also leads the team with 114 tackles this season. In his three seasons with the Falcons, he has recorded 382 total tackles.
Men of Ten
The Falcons have been very present in rankable statistical categories this season. In fact, Atlanta ranks in the top 10 in seven team categories — points per game (6th), total offense per game (10th), net rushing yards per game (9th), time of possession average (3rd), opponents points per game (7th), opponent net rushing yards per game (8th) and turnover differential (4th).