On Monday, I ran an item, with the help of ESPN’s Stats & Information, on how Atlanta had the league’s worst play-action passing game in 2009. I was a bit perplexed by that because the common perception is that a team with a running back like Michael Turner should be able to use the play-action game very well.
I asked for your theories on why the Falcons struggled in this area and you more than filled up the mailbag with what I think are some pretty solid explanations. Wish I could run them all, but we have space limitations. So I’ll go ahead and pick out five that I think could be close to the mark.
Hunter in Atlanta writes: Watching the Falcons passing game last year, it literally looked like 75 percent of the play action was a Matt Ryan fake to the RB, and then booting to his right in a one- or two-receiver route. The Falcons made a bunch of first down throws on that type of play last year and I think teams began to catch on as the season progressed. It was infuriating as a Falcons fan when they ran this play because eventually it became a Matt Ryan boot and run/throw it away. I don't know if this is the whole story, but it may have at least something to do with why the Falcons were so poor on play action last year.
Kendall in Gainesville, Fla., writes: I have a theory: A lot of the play-action that the Falcons run was bootlegging Matt Ryan out of the pocket. I, and a lot of other Falcons fans, noticed that Ryan's internal clock tends to speed up when he is flushed out of the pocket leading him to throw away a lot of balls. There is a lot of talk in the Falcons fan community whether this is a good trait or not. Either way, it does seem that Ryan is a little quick in getting those balls out, even when there is no apparent pressure on him.
Cory in Kansas writes: It has to be a tell by either a player or a coach on play calling in situational parts of the game. I saw this many times watching their games and the announcers, who were typically different most weeks, would also notice this.
Kevin in Chapel Hill, N.C., writes: First, the running game was not what it was the year before. Turner started slow, and then was hurt a lot toward the end of the season. Jerious Norwood was also banged up most of the year. Teams were not scared of Jason Snelling, so opposing defenses didn't have to focus on the run as they did the year before. Also, starting with the game against Dallas, the o-line struggled in pass protection compared to the year before. Injuries to Matt Ryan & some of the WRs didn't help either.
Andy in Atlanta writes: I personally think it just highlights even more Turner's importance to Atlanta's passing game as well as our running game.