Atlanta Falcons' Disastrous Start Highlights the Importance of a Balanced Team

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 07:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons waits for player introductions prior to facing the New York Jets at Georgia Dome on October 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Offense is king in today's NFL.

The rules favor the offensive side of the football and teams spend big on offensive playmakers too.

However, while focusing on fielding the best possible offense can be an enticing strategy, it is also an inherently flawed one.

If you need proof, just take a look at the 2013 Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons are built for offense. They have been for quite some time. From the drafting of quarterback Matt Ryan at third overall back in 2008 to the controversial decision to trade away five draft picks to select wideout Julio Jones in 2011, Atlanta has gone all in on offense.

Considering the offensive capabilities of the NFC's Super Bowl representatives during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons, it's a strategy that made sense in the past. The Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers all reached the big game on the strength of their offense.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that the Falcons are going to be the next great offensive team to challenge for an NFC title.

After losing to the New York Jets on Monday night, Atlanta is reeling at 1-4 and just lost arguably its best playmaker, Jones, for the season with a foot injury.

However, the loss of Jones isn't Atlanta's biggest problem.

The Falcons still have enough offensive stars to hang with most opponents this season. Ryan is a top-flight quarterback while wide receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez are among the best players at their respective positions. Gonzalez is possibly the best tight end ever, actually.

Atlanta also has running back Steven Jackson, who was the team's prized offseason acquisition and will eventually return from his hamstring injury.

Perhaps Atlanta should have put more time during the offseason looking at defensive players. Yes, I know the Falcons signed Osi Umenyiora, but that simply offsets the loss of John Abraham.

The Falcons didn't underestimate Geno Smith, they simply couldn't stop him.
The Falcons didn't underestimate Geno Smith, they simply couldn't stop him.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

As the Falcons learned on Monday night, the ability to score the last points of the game can be just as important as the ability to score at will.

Except for Denver—forget what the Broncos are accomplishing this season for a second, as Peyton Manning is a once-in-multiple-generations quarterback)each of the league's 5-0 or 4-1 teams are ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense.

The Falcons rank 21st, allowing 26.8 points per game. This means that Atlanta must score 27 points on average in order to win a game.

As of now, only six teams are averaging 27 or more points per game.

Atlanta is not one of them.

If this isn't evidence enough to understand why a strong offense isn't enough to stay atop the NFL landscape, consider the long-term ramifications for the Falcons.

Jones, whom the team sold out for on draft day, is out for the year and there is no telling what kind of player he can be upon his eventual return. Gonzalez is going to retire after this season. Barring a miracle, Jackson will probably be gone as well.

In short, Atlanta's Super Bowl window probably closes after this season. That is unless the team can find a way to obtain balance.

The New Orleans Saints, ranked ninth in scoring offense (26.8 points per game) and fourth in scoring defense (14.6 points per game allowed) seem to have figured out the formula.

Of course, the Saints also appear to be the best team in the entire conference and one that the Falcons won't be catching within the NFC South this season.

Defenses have always won championships. The Baltimore Ravens showed last season that great ones still can. Average defenses can at least win you ballgames when your offense cannot deliver.

Unfortunately, thanks to their attention to the other side of the ball, the Falcons don't have an average defense and consequently won't be winning a lot of games this season.


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