The dust has started to settle on the Atlanta Falcons’ disappointing 2013 season.
The Falcons went from 13-3 to 4-12 in one season. It was one of the worst collapses of the post AFL-NFL merger era.
Since the NFL started seeding teams for the playoffs in 1975, there have been 98 No. 1 seeds and only three — the 2003 Raiders, 2005 Eagles and 20013 Falcons — has returned the following to season to finish in last place in their division.
After reaching the NFC Championship Game in the 2012 season, the Falcons finished tied with Tampa Bay (4-12) for last place in the NFC South this season. They will pick sixth overall in the NFL Draft in May.
“Obviously, we are disappointed with a 4-12 season,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We had very high expectations from a management standpoint as well. There are a lot of changes to be made and adjustments to be made and considered.”
The Falcons were already plotting a return to at least playoff status. They had a winning record in each of the five previous seasons and reached the playoffs in four.
“This is also a function of acquisitions, changes and rosters, talent and depth,” Dimitroff said. “It’s something that we’re going to analyze at all levels. We are truly going to pare it back and peel back, whatever we need to be incredibly honest with ourselves as far as our approach as far as the decisions that I made and we made as an organization to move on from players or acquire certain players.
“We believe that we have a talented football team here and that we need to make adjustments. We will talk about those as well, but I really truly believe that we have the nucleus, the coach and the leadership to turn this around quickly.”
The Falcons did finish with 11 players on injured reserve and lost the service of key players including wide receiver Roddy White, running back Steven Jackson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon for long stretches of the season.
But the Falcons didn’t want to lean on the injuries crutch.
“We faced a number of challenges as a football team and a coaching staff this year,” head coach Mike Smith said. “It’s very obvious that we’re nowhere near the expectations that we had as a team and as organization. The responsibility for that solely goes on me. We did not have the type of season that we wanted and we’re going to do everything in our power to work towards fixing that in 2014 as we recalibrate our organization.”
That process started as defensive coordinator Mike Nolan received a two-year contract extension and offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn and defensive line coach Ray Hamilton were fired after the season.
“We didn’t win the line of scrimmage in most football games,” Smith said. “I thought that was a factor. Again, we’re going to continue to evaluate everything from top to bottom.”
Smith was happy to retain Nolan.
“All three of our coordinators are under contract for next season,” Smith said. “They are very good football coaches and I’m glad that we have them under contract and will have the opportunity to work with them in the 2014 season.
“We’ve got to do a better job as a coaching staff. Ultimately, that’s how we’re judged and that’s how the head coach in judges. I take full responsibility for the record this season.”
NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON REPORT CARD
PASSING OFFENSE: C — It was a major football miracle that Matt Ryan made it through the season without a major injury. His pass protection was shoddy. He was sacked 44 times and hit 100 times. He completed 439 of 651 passes (67.4 percent) for 4,515 yards. He threw 26 touchdowns and a career-high 17 interceptions. He also had four interceptions returned for touchdowns. His numbers are highly respectable consider the amount of duress that he was under and the fact that the Falcons didn’t have a running game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D — None of the top three running backs averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry. Steven Jackson was a disappointment in his first year with the team as he rushed 157 times for 543 yards (3.5 per carry). Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 332 yards on 96 carries (3.5) and Jason Snelling rushed for 164 yards on 44 carries.
PASS DEFENSE: F — The Falcons gave up 52 pass plays of 20 yards or more, which ranked 15th in the league. They gave up 17 pass plays of 40 yards or more, which ranked first in the league. The closed out the season with rookie Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant starting. Safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud were not able to follow-up their Pro Bowl season with strong campaigns. The level of DeCoud’s play dropped so dramatically he’s in danger of being released over the offseason. Cornerback Asante Samuel was banished to the bench late in the season and likely will not return.
RUSH DEFENSE: F — The Falcons gave up 135.8 yards per game, which ranked second-worst in the league. The missed tackles led to six runs of 40 yards or more, which was second-most in the league. They gave up 14 runs of 20 yards or more, which was seventh-most in the league.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Kicker Matt Bryant and punter Matt Bosher had solid seasons. The coverage units were strong with Antone Smith as the top tackler. Bosher finished with a 41.1-yard net, but the Falcons had two of his punts blocked. Also, the return game was lethargic.
COACHING: F — There was a major miscalculation along the offensive line that lead to the team’s quick free fall from being the No. 1 seed in the NFC to a last place finish in the NFC South. In addition to botching the revamped line, Smith allowed Tony Gonzalez to have training camp off and then played Roddy White when he had a high ankle sprain. The promising season was doomed from the start. To the coaching staff’s credit, the out-manned Falcons played hard down the stretch and kept the games close. Overall, they dropped eight one-score games, but struggled with their blocking and tackling.