Teams will always have an item or two they want to really improve on from week to week, but when head coach Mike Smith met with the media on Monday after Week 3′s 27-23 loss to the Dolphins, he had more than a few items and he said he was as much to blame as anyone.
The head coach said the Falcons’ situational football was at the top of the list in terms of what needs to change. At the end of the day — or game, if you can’t score touchdowns and you give up touchdowns on defense, you’re going to lose. Smith pointed to red-zone, two-minute and third-down situations on both offense and defense as areas that must improve.
On defense, the Falcons allowed Miami to score a touchdown on each of their three trips inside the 20-yard line and allowed conversions on 58 percent of the Dolphins’ third-down opportunities. In two-minute situations, the defense allowed a field goal to close out the first half and a touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter. On the offensive side, Atlanta came away with TDs in just two of five trips inside the redzone and converted just 45 percent of their third-down chances.
Smith said if anyone wants to point fingers about these concerns, specifically inside the redzone, to begin this season, he said look no further than him.
“The responsibility goes to me,” Smith said. “It doesn’t go to the quarterback; it doesn’t go to the offensive line; it doesn’t go to the offensive coordinator. It’s my responsibility as the head coach to make sure that we’re more efficient in the red zone. I can assure you that’s something that will be addressed.”
The Falcons’ 50 percent success rate inside the redzone this year puts them in a tie with seven other teams for 24th in the league. Smith said the target area they’d like to be in is closer to the top 10 in the league. Last season they finished tenth with a 57.97 conversion percentage.
Though ultimately Smith’s taking responsibility for everything that happens with the team, he did say improving their efficiency on defense and offense within those statistical metrics was a job for everyone. And that responsibility is especially important in correcting a second-half trend of losing leads the Falcons have had dating back a few seasons.
“We’re not executing in the second half of football games,” Smith said. “The numbers state that. We’ve got to be more efficient. We’ve got to be more efficient as coaches. We’ve got to be more efficient as players.”
And how to correct that issue is the most complex one of all. It leaves players scratching their heads. It leaves coaching staffs frustrated with lost leads. It leaves fans disappointed with having victory snatched away.
Smith said it’s a matter of effort and it needs to be maxed out at all times. The coach said each play has to be approached like it’s the most important play, because it ultimately could end up being just that.
“I still think we have to finish every play,” Smith said. “That, in turn, will help us finish games. There were some good examples in the film session with our players today about what the proper way to finish is. We need to focus on not just finishing the game; we need to focus on finishing the play. It starts with the play and that play could be the play that makes the difference. If we finish each play, we’re going to finish the game.”