ATLANTA — Quarterback Matt Ryan says it’s too early to give Atlanta much credit in the red zone.
The Falcons have scored touchdowns on eight of their past 10 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That’s a major improvement from last year’s struggles and a slow start this season.
Still, even though Atlanta leads the NFL in points and yardage, Ryan is far from satisfied.
“Really, when you watch the film, there’s a lot of things we can even do better,” he said Wednesday.
“That’s kind of the focus. You see 15 things we could’ve done better. That’s what you have to harp on.”
After struggling in the red zone last season, the Falcons spent the offseason working to correct the problems.
They got off to a bad start, scoring just one touchdown in seven possessions before Ryan and tight end Jacob Tamme connected for a 14-yard score late in the third quarter at Oakland. Justin Hardy then caught a TD on a deflection, and
Atlanta has been on a roll.
Coach Dan Quinn called it the law of averages evening out, but the Falcons have turned their fortunes by creating new looks for opponents.
He hopes it continues Sunday when Atlanta (2-1) hosts Carolina (1-2).
“We have not been through the playbook, that’s for sure, in the red zone,” Quinn said.
“It’s such a specific spot because (defenses) will play unique coverages, make unique calls in the red zone. Often times the closer that you get, there’s some plays where you know this coverage is going to be a man or a zone and we’re going to work to one of those two.”
For Ryan, the biggest improvement has come from the ground game. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are causing matchup problems in goal-to-go situations.
“That’s the key,” he said. “If you can run the ball effectively inside the 10, especially with the kind of backs that we have, our offensive line has done a great job letting those guys can get downhill. When score points running the football, that’s huge.”
Of Atlanta’s five red zone TDs in Monday’s win at New Orleans, Coleman needed just 10 total yards to score three times. Hardy added a 4-yard catch and Freeman a 13-yard catch.
Freeman and Coleman have been tough to defend as Ryan spreads out the formation and opponents often use two men to cover All-Pro receiver Julio Jones.
“I think there’s a lot more we can do down there, but when you’re running it pretty good, there’s no need to overcomplicate it,” Ryan said.
“We had a play in last week’s game where we handed it to Tevin from the 3-yard line and he walked in untouched, kind of bouncing it back to the left. The more we can get those kind of looks, the better off we’ll be.”
Freeman, who combined with Coleman for 296 yards from scrimmage and four TDs against the Saints, said the offense has found a collective mindset over the past two weeks.
“The want-to,” he said. “We’re imposing our will against the opponent and just converting in the red zone.”
Notes: Ryan has a sore left thumb from the Saints game, but fully participated in practice. … Coleman (ankle), WR Julio Jones (calf), WR Taylor Gabriel (hamstring) and DE Brooks Reed (shoulder) were limited. … WR Mohamed Sanu (shoulder), LB De’Vondre Campbell (ankle), LB Paul Worrilow (groin) and DE Dwight Freeney (rest) were held out.