The Atlanta Falcons lost this past week for the first time this season. Their biggest weakness of the season has been exposed: an inability to gain a yard in goal-to-go situations from the one or one-yard-to-go situations.
The Falcons have had to go to second and even third down this year after not having to go past a quick first down run in previous years. When they can't get one yard, there are issues at all three levels of the team's offense: coaching, blocking and rushing.
This article offers five potential fixes:
On the failed play on 3rd-and-1, Matt Ryan handed it off to Michael Turner on a designed run to the left. There were three main reasons as to why this play failed: bad blocking by the line, the fact that the play was predictable and Turner's inability to hit the hole hard enough to push people through.
On the left side of the offensive line, the Falcons haven't been able to get much push. Comparatively, on runs to the left side, the Falcons have been gaining just 3.45 yards per carry this season, as opposed to the 3.91 yards per carry on runs to the right.
It also failed due to an obvious play call in the situation.
It was 3rd-and-goal from the one and the Falcons tried passing it on first down. The Falcons have been trying to run to the left on almost every short yardage situation this year. Had they called another pass, or even a run to the other side, it wouldn't have been as obvious as the running play they did call.
Michael Turner also has to get to the hole much quicker than he did.
He had multiple side steps in the back field instead of charging forward like the raging bull he can be. If he charges forward, he doesn't lose a yard, instead at least getting to the goal line, despite the poor blocking and play call.
While it was a terrible idea to run the ball to the left, the idea of running the ball in general was not. One of the best things the Falcons have done this year in the running game is line up in sets with Michael Johnson on the strong-side and run behind Joe Hawley at fullback.
This play takes a combination of both things, and adds in the wrinkle of handing the ball off to someone who actually wants to carry it: Jason Snelling.
By having the blocking flow to the right and bringing in Hawley to bulldoze his way through the hole, the Falcons will be able to provide Snelling with a clear lane and easy rumble into the end zone.
When the going gets tough, the tough figure out a way to use math and the path of least resistance to gain that final yard.
Matt Ryan has been excellent on sneaks throughout his career, lowering his pad level and getting the yard when the situation calls for it.
This is a very basic idea: a sneak play where the blocking tries to create a small enough gap for him to sneak through with a pair of backs propping him up from behind so that he can extend out and put the ball in the end zone or for the first down.
When teams expect the run, the best thing to do is play action pass.
While they attempted this strategy on the first play, it would have been prudent to go back to it again.
This is a simple play that takes advantage of having a fullback who can catch the ball well. It also completely fakes out the defense, giving the impression it's a basic run to the right while Tony Gonzalez slips out and has a quick fade.
The keys to this play working would either be Palmer being open behind the defense as it's crashing in for a run or Gonzalez being open in the end zone.
One way to completely surprise a team is to spread them out at the goal line.
By lining up and running a simple clearout play to the right, the Falcons should have at least Roddy White open. If Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones or Harry Douglas get open over the middle, then the Falcons will be able to confuse the defense and have almost everyone in a position to score.
By having an underneath chip-flat to Jacquizz Rodgers, there is even an escape route before Ryan would have to scramble out of the pocket. This play would be a great way to force the defense out of its comfort zone in the goal-to-goal situation the Falcons have.
The best option of them all is the most unexpected: spread the defense out and call a run-pass checkoff.
If it looks like the pass is going to be there, run the pass. If it's not going to be there, however, then go for the run.
In this situation, what better way to go than to motion the running back into the slot and then have Ryan drop back in a short drop. Then, once the pass is sold, find the seam in the defense and run right through it.
All plays were hand drawn and then snapped on my camera phone. So if the quality isn't 100% great, I apologize.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.