Falcons Offense Having Trouble Taking Off

The Falcons had trouble getting their offense off the ground against New Engalnd. It has been a recurring theme this preseason.

--It's Matt Ryan's third year. The offense is stocked with weapons from running back Michael Turner, tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Roddy White. The unheralded, but tenaciously effective offensive line has returned intact. They welcomed the return of slot receiver Harry Douglas during the second exhibition game and figure to get 50-catch receiver Michael Jenkins back in time for the regular-season opener. But the offense, which has featured several adjustments, has sputtered thus far in the preseason.

The Falcons have tried to throw more passes to Turner and have operated out of the no-huddle attack. However, they have not yet tried to stretch defenses vertically. In five series, they have settled for four field goal attempts and one punt. The offense is moving well between the 30s, but is getting bogged down.

Against New England, their first drive stalled on the Patriots' 28, and Matt Bryant, who was declared the winner in the kicking competition after Steven Hauschka was released, made a 46-yard field goal. On the Falcons' second possession, the offense was stopped on three downs and forced to punt. On the third, Ryan went to the no-huddle attack. They went to an empty backfield with Eric Weems outside on the left and White outside on the right. Turner was put in the slot next to White. Gonzalez and Justin Peelle were on the left inside of Weems. On one play, White ran a streak and Turner came underneath on an out route. Ryan threw to Turner who made a nice catch, but also took a good hit. On the backside, Weems ran a streak and Gonzalez and Peelle ran short routes crossers. Gonzalez went up the seam while Peelle came back across the middle. On another no-huddle play, out of the shot gun, Turner was in backfield next to Ryan.

It is the hope that Ryan will be able attack defenses out of the no huddle in the same fashion as the Colts do with Peyton Manning. Last season, the Falcons went into the no-huddle 16 times, but were trailing in 14 of those situations. White, who is attempting to become the first receiver in franchise history to post four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, had gains of 17 and nine yards as the offense moved to New England's 29. On a third-and-4 from there, a pass intended for Gonzalez was incomplete. Bryant came on and missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt that sailed wide right. He also missed a 50-yarder to the right last week in the 20-10 victory over Kansas City.

In the third exhibition game, the Falcons will game plan and be determined to score against Miami's defense. "We've got to put the ball in the end zone," Gonzalez said.

White wants to see the end zone, too. "We've got to find a way to finish drives and convert some of those third downs," White said.

Falcons' coach Mike Smith has mixed feelings about the offense. "We were working on certain things that we wanted to work on," Smith said. "For example, for the first preseason game we wanted to start the game by running the football and that's what we did. We wanted to come out in this second ball game and pass the football early on and I thought that we did that very effectively."

While he's fine with them working out some kinks, he wants to see better execution on third down. "Offensively, the thing that sticks out, is when we get over on the plus side near the 30, we have not been able to convert a third down," Smith said. "That's a big concern. You don't want to be scoring field goals. You want to be scoring touchdowns. Those are the things we are going to address."

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