Falcons offense takes step back in follow-up to Super Bowl

From ESPN - January 14, 2018

The Atlanta Falcons ended the season with a 10-6 record in the regular season and with a 15-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC divisional playoff game Saturday. Here's a recap of the season and what's next:

Season grade: Average. That's the best way to sum up the Falcons' up-and-down follow-up to their Super Bowl run in 2016, despite a winning record and postseason appearance. The offense, under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, did not live up to the high expectations that followed their league-leading 33.8 points per game in 2016. They had a dip of more than 10 point in 2017. The defense showed remarkable improvement in all areas under new coordinator Marquand Manuel but still had issues with tackling and sustaining consistent pressure. And special teams failed at times with coverage issues and costly penalties, although kicker Matt Bryant was a stud.

Season in review: All the talk of the Super Bowl hangover died down when the Falcons started on a three-game winning streak, although narrow victories over the Bears and Lions easily could have gone the other way. Then a three-game losing streak in October against AFC East, including a season-low 7 points scored in the Super Bowl rematch against the Patriots, exposed some offensive issues. Then another three-game winning streak over the Cowboys, Seahawks and Buccaneers showed just how potent the offense could be when clicking. But losses to the Vikings and Saints, as the Falcons failed to reach 14 points, humbled the offense once again. Winning three out of four to end the season, all in division play, at least gave the Falcons a chance to make a return trip to the Super Bowl, although they fell short.

Biggest play of season: Deion Jones' leaping interception of a Drew Brees pass in the end zone secured the Falcons' 20-17 win over the rival Saints in Week 14. Without that play and without the win, the Falcons might not have been in playoff contention at the end of the season. Jones, a New Orleans native, has three interceptions in three career games against Brees.

He said it: "I think when you look at some of our struggles on the offensive side of the ball, it comes down to us players making plays. You can be in good positions, and when you do not make the throw or whatever you need to do on those situations, it's not about the scheme. It's about the play." -- Matt Ryan

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