If you’re a fan of offense, this was the game for you. 7 of the first 8 drives were touchdowns. There wasn’t a single punt in the first half, and there was only 3 all game, not to mention the first punt of the game was blocked. It was a wild game to say the least. So what happened to make both these offenses have so much success on Sunday? (you know, other than seemingly the entire Falcons defense being on the IR). Let’s get into the offensive playcalling from last week.
The first big play of the game for Cincinnati was a 38 yard passing play out of a 4 wide set. They also had a 15 yard touchdown just 2 plays later that was a passing play out of that set as well. The 4 wide set ended up being the most effective set for the Bengals, throughout the game they averaged 6.36 yards per game overall, however they averaged 8.68 yards per play from 4 wide sets. Another thing worth mentioning, in between those two plays I mentioned before, the Bengals had an 11 yard passing play out of a set with two receivers, two tight ends and a halfback. That’s a which is typically reserved for rushing plays, so if you can fool the other team it can result in a big gain. Cincinnati had a couple of successful passes from that set, they had the aforementioned 11 yard gain along with a 24 yard gain. However the other 4 times the Bengals passed from that set they lost a combined total of 4 yards. They ended up gaining 4.47 yards per play from that set, considering they ran the ball 11 of the 17 total plays from that set, 4.47 yards per play certainly isn’t bad, but it’s not exactly great either.
On the other side of things, it seemed that Atlanta had the more success with more blockers in the game. I feel like that’s been the case for a while, and I really feel like the Falcons should use a fullback more often. One of the things that Kyle Shanahan loved to do when he was the offensive coordinator with Atlanta was use fullbacks (and he still loves to do it with the 49ers). Last Sunday against Cincinnati, the Falcons gained 8.44 yards per play with a fullback in the game, however they used one just 9 times, which was just 8 percent of their plays. I’m obviously not a head coach, but if it were up to me I’d probably use a fullback 15-20 percent of their plays with the way it works for the Falcons roster. Going back to my point about the fact that Atlanta is better with more protection, it’s espically true when throwing the ball. Out of multiple tight ends sets, they gained 10.8 yards per passing play, sets with 1 tight end they gained 8.59 yards per passing play, out of 4 wide sets they gained 7.06 yards per passing play, and out of 5 wide sets they gained just 4.83 yards per passing play. I would say that 3 of those 4 are pretty good numbers, which shouldn’t be too surprising, after all Atlanta did average 7.86 yards per play overall throughout the game. Even out of 5 wide sets where they didn’t do too well, they only used that set 6 times, so it’s a small sample size. However I do find it interesting that Atlanta did better each time they added a blocker.
For Cincinnati, they probably could’ve done better out of standard sets, they only averaged 5.85 yards per passing play, and 4.33 yards per rushing play, bringing their overall average from that set to 4.91 yards per play. Despite that, the Bengals never quit using it. For that matter they never even used it less. On their final drive of the game, they used it 6 of their first 9 plays. they gained just 16 yards from those plays (which is 2.67 yards per play). So you could say that the Bengals should’ve made the adjustment to use less of those sets, but they got lucky. However with the game on the line, they went back to a standard set, and Andy Dalton threw for a 13 yard game winning touchdown, so not throwing out the standard set worked out in the end.
(I wrote an article where I broke down 6 plays this week, and Cincinnati’s game winner was one of the plays I chose, so I decided to include that part here as well. You can check out the full article by clicking here. )