Red-zone woes haunt the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The bottom line doesn’t look good for the Falcons’ red-zone production.

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Matt Ryan and the Falcons failed to score touchdowns on five of six red-zone possessions vs. New England.    JOHN BAZEMORE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JOHN BAZEMORE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Matt Ryan and the Falcons failed to score touchdowns on five of six red-zone possessions vs. New England.

After failing to score touchdowns on five of six possessions inside New England’s 20 last week in a 30-23 loss, the Falcons rank 29th in the league in red-zone production.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said Wednesday the reason for optimism is the offense is providing so many opportunities. Atlanta leads the NFL with 18 scoring chances inside the 20.

The obvious bad news is the Falcons have scored only seven touchdowns in those 18 opportunities for a 38.9 percent success rate.

Better production was expected from an offense stacked with accomplished stars quarterback Matt Ryan, receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Steven Jackson.

Jackson, signed from the Rams in the off-season, was seen as the missing piece on a team that played in last year’s NFC Championship Game following a 13-3 season.

The Falcons (1-3) need better red-zone production in Monday night’s game against the New York Jets to snap the first two-game regular-season skid in six seasons under coach Mike Smith.

“It’s frustrating and encouraging at the same time because we’ve made a lot of those plays in the past,” Koetter said. “We have really good players and they’ve made plays in the past, so that’s why it’s an across-the-board issue. It would be a simple thing to solve if we could just say ‘It’s this one thing. Let’s fix it.’ But it’s more than that.”

Injuries have been a problem.

Jackson could miss his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury. White has played in every game, but has been slowed by an ankle sprain. The offensive line lost projected starting right tackle Mike Johnson before the season and could be without left tackle Sam Baker (knee) this week.

“The bottom line is we’re not making the plays, so as a coaching staff we’ve got to give them better plays and the players, whatever we do give them, they’ve got to make the best of it,” Koetter said. “That’s just the bottom line. We’ve got to do better.”

The Falcons were excited about the role Jackson would play in short-yardage situations and in the red zone. Koetter, who said running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling have played well, wouldn’t blame the red-zone woes on Jackson’s injury.

Sure, we’re anxious to get Steven back,” Koetter said. “At the same time, Jacquizz and Jason are doing a really nice job during his absence. We want Steven back out there as soon as we can get him back out there for the long haul. Whenever that is, the docs and trainers will let us know.”

Jackson did not practice Tuesday, and the team was off Wednesday.


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