The Falcons (0-1) take on the Super Bowl-champion Bucs (1-0) in Week 2. Can Atlanta rebound from their abysmal opening day performance to give Tampa Bay a game? We take a closer look at the offensive and defensive statistics to find out.
The Atlanta Falcons got absolutely mauled by the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1, leading to a 32-6 rout that was thoroughly unenjoyable to watch. We didn’t get to see any of the offensive fireworks we were hoping for from Arthur Smith, in large part due to the offensive line’s inability to pass block. As such, Atlanta’s offense was largely forced into quick, short passes and running the ball—which they did pretty well, to be fair.
That game plan might work in a close game, but Atlanta quickly found themselves down multiple scores and in a pass-only situation. Disaster ensued. Unfortunately, things don’t get any easier in Week 2, as the Falcons have to travel to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The reigning Super Bowl champions engaged in an electric offensive shootout on Thursday Night Football, pulling out the win in spectacular fashion over a very competitive Cowboys team.
Is there any hope for Atlanta to pull off the upset on Sunday? Let’s take a look at the offensive and defensive statistics to see if we can deduce any potential signs of weakness.
As we’ve only got one game in the books, the statistics are going to be a little funky. It’s also important to note that these numbers will be quite volatile until around Week 5, as there are fewer data points to consider. Don’t take these numbers too seriously until we get a few more games under our belt.
The Falcons played a horrid game on offense in Week 1, while the Bucs had a strong overall outing. Tampa Bay leads comfortably in all three major offensive statistics, putting up top-10 numbers: 10th in scoring, 6th in total yardage, and 5th in yards per play. Atlanta, on the other hand, leads only the Packers in scoring after a 6-point outing. They were also among the league’s worst in total yardage (26th) and yards per play (4.1).
The passing game, once Atlanta’s unquestioned strength, was abysmal in Week 1. The Falcons put up just 136 passing yards (31st), a league-low 4.7 yards per attempt, and a 7.9% sack percentage (27th). Tampa Bay was among the best in the league through the air to open the season, putting up 379 passing yards (3rd), 7.6 yards per attempt (12th), and keeping Tom Brady from being sacked at all (0% sack rate, T-1st).
One thing the Falcons did well on Sunday was run the ball, an area of constant concern under former OC Dirk Koetter. The Falcons put up 124 yards on the ground (14th) at an even-more-impressive 4.8 yards per carry (T-7th). If the team can play with a lead or even keep things close, that might actually matter. The Bucs had great difficulty running the ball in Week 1, putting up just 52 yards on the ground (30th) at a poor 3.7 yards per carry (22nd).
When you score just 6 points and botch two red zone trips, the advanced statistics will be very unkind to you. That’s exactly what happened to the Falcons, as they put up just an 18.2% scoring efficiency (29th), a 0% red zone efficiency (T-31st), and a 21.4% third down conversion rate (31st). The one good thing Atlanta did was protect the football, as Ryan and Co. managed not to turn the ball over (0% turnover rate, T-1st).
The Bucs, despite a productive day, did have some uncharacteristic struggles with turnovers. Tampa Bay had a whopping 30.8% turnover rate (31st) against Dallas, keeping the game a lot closer than it should have been. The team was largely average in the other advanced stats, with a 38.5% scoring efficiency (19th), 60% red zone efficiency (T-17th), and 45.5% third down conversion rate (T-13th).
Offensive Advantage: Bucs
You might think allowing 32 points on defense would place Atlanta in the dregs of the NFL, but it was merely below-average in what was a pretty high-scoring Week 1 overall. That mark was just 24th, while they allowed 429 total yards (25th) and 6.1 yards per play (T-22nd). The Bucs, surprisingly, weren’t much better after a shootout with the Cowboys. Tampa Bay allowed 29 points (T-21st), 451 total yards (30th), and 5.9 yards per play (19th).
Despite allowing a ton of points, Atlanta’s defense didn’t actually get blown off the field against the pass. This was due, in part, to the team’s offensive issues giving the Eagles a ton of short fields to work with. The Falcons allowed 261 passing yards (17th), 7.5 yards per attempt (T-19th), and put up a slightly below-average pressure rate of 17.9% (20th). Tampa Bay, in their aforementioned shootout, got blasted through the air. The Bucs surrendered 391 passing yards (31st) at 6.9 yards per attempt (11th), along with a pretty poor pressure rate (12.9%, 26th).
While the Falcons were solid against the pass, they got gashed on the ground by Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ rushing attack. Atlanta allowed 168 rushing yards (30th) at 4.9 yards per carry (27th)—which is not good. The Bucs, meanwhile, largely shut down Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys ground game. Tampa Bay allowed just 60 rushing yards (4th) at 3.3 yards per carry (9th).
As you might expect when allowing 30+ points in game, the Falcons struggled in the advanced statistics. Atlanta allowed a 45.5% scoring efficiency (23rd), a 100% red zone efficiency (T-21st), and a 46.2% third down conversion rate (21st). They also failed to generate any turnovers, giving them a 0% turnover rate (T-25th).
The Bucs also had their fair share of struggles in the advanced statistics. Tampa Bay allowed a 46.2% scoring efficiency (24th), a 52.9% third down conversion rate (26th), and a 7.7% turnover rate (T-21st). They did do an excellent job in the red zone, however, allowing only a 25% conversion rate (T-3rd).
Defensive Advantage: Bucs
This final section won’t shock you, but the statistics following Week 1 all tell us the same thing: the Buccaneers look like the significantly better team. Offensively, they were among the league’s best while Atlanta struggled in a major way. The Falcons are almost certain to improve, but I doubt they’ll be as good as the Bucs in 2021.
On defense, things are actually fairly close. Tampa Bay’s defense wasn’t particularly sharp against the Cowboys, but they were also facing one of the NFL’s best offenses (and a strong offensive line). It’s possible we’ll look back at Atlanta’s defensive struggles against the Eagles as equally understandable—the offense’s role in making things a lot worse is also important to note. But will the Falcons be able to slow down an even better offense this week? I’m doubtful.
I think we’ll see a bounce back game from Atlanta very soon, but I don’t know if it will be this weekend. The Falcons are playing the Super Bowl champions at exactly the wrong time, and match up very poorly with Tampa Bay’s interior defensive line. It could be another ugly game on Sunday, but it also wouldn’t shock me if the Falcons put up more of a fight than most imagine.
Overall Projection: Bucs heavily favored
What are your thoughts on the Falcons’ Week 2 matchup with the Bucs? Do you think Atlanta can hold their own against the reigning Super Bowl champions, or will it be another blowout on Sunday?