The Atlanta Falcons' offense has, at times, looked to be in midseason form through two exhibition games. That is, until they reach the red zone, where the momentum sputters to a halt.
Against the Bengals last Thursday, twice in the first half, when most of the starters were in the game, the Falcons drove deep in Cincinnati territory only to settle for two Matt Bryant field goals. Matt Ryan did, however, manage one touchdown pass -- a 2-yard score to FB Lousaka Polite.
Yet another time less than halfway through the third quarter, backup quarterback Chris Redman floated an errant pass from the Bengals 17-yard line, which was intercepted by Jeromy Miles in the end zone.
The offense as a whole has underperformed when nearing the goal line. As evidence, through two exhibition games, the Falcons are the No. 2 team in the NFL with an average of 408 yards per game. Atlanta has converted that into just 36 points, 20th-best in the league. Two preseason games is relatively nothing in the context of an NFL season, but the trend has caught Ryan's attention.
“We've been down there a couple times,” Matt Ryan said to Daniel Cox of Atlantafalcons.com. “We just need to try to continue to finish those drives off. We've been working hard on that in practice and that's something that hopefully we'll do better in the game on Friday.”
Interestingly, of the three possessions that the Falcons had in the Bengals' red zone in the first half last Thursday, they ran the ball only once, yet threw it six times. It could be a case of first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter adjusting to his team, or it could be an over-reliance on the passing game.