Even Packers' offense no match for torrid Falcons

Eric Goska
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“What’s the score” is often the first question asked when someone stumbles upon a game already in progress.

Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81) is upended Green Bay Packers cornerback Demetri Goodson (39) during their game Oct. 30, 2016 at the Georgia Dome.

The final score of the NFC championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons on Sunday is likely to involve more points than most. Both teams are high-scoring with Atlanta especially capable of lighting up a scoreboard with regularity.

The Falcons were the league’s top-scoring team during the regular season with 540 points. The Packers finished fourth with 432.

For Green Bay, reaching 400 has become routine. It has done so in five of the last six seasons and nine of the last 11.

For Atlanta, those 540 points represent a franchise record. As such, a closer look at this dynamo from Georgia is warranted.

In our examination, we’ll review the Falcons’ scoring from different angles as though we’re under the hood. Multiple views should leave no doubt as to just how potent this team truly is.

Getting to 500 points is still out of the norm, even in today’s fast-paced game. Atlanta became just the 20th team to scale such heights.

All 19 that did so previously fared well. Each won at least 10 games and made the playoffs, 14 reached a championship game and four won a Super Bowl. The regular-season record of the 20 teams combined was 264-53-1 (.832).

The Falcons dazzled in another way. They scored 100 or more points in every quarter.

That’s a rarity. Atlanta became the 14th team to do it, with 1983 Washington team accomplishing it first.

As with the 500-pointers, this group of 14 — with the exception of the 1985 Cincinnati Bengals who went 7-9 — also enjoyed success on the field. That’s because all but two of these 4x100s also scored 500 points.

Atlanta has had to stay busy in order to fit in all this scoring. The team tallied points in 56 of 64 quarters throughout the regular season.

That was a league best. New England was second with 55 quarters.

The Falcons scored 30 or more points in 11 regular-season games, another mark without equal. Next up were the Saints, who got there nine times.

So proficient was Atlanta that it scored points on more than half of its drives. The team recorded a field goal or a touchdown on 92 of 175 drives (52.6 percent), and that includes advances that featured one or more kneel-downs.

That percentage is special. The Falcons became just the third to surpass 50 percent this century, joining the 2007 Patriots (16-0) and the 2011 Saints (13-3).

Points per play is another measure in which Atlanta excelled. The metric is arrived at by taking the number of points a team scores and dividing it by the number of offensive plays it runs.

Atlanta ran 995 plays during the regular season. Its points per play average of 0.54 — more than half a point per play — was No. 1. Four teams — the Saints, Packers, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys — tied for second at 0.42.

All these numbers, all these statistics, all these metrics — they’re rather impersonal. Let’s introduce a human element into this story.

After all, it’s players — flesh and blood in uniform — who do the scoring.

Kicker Matt Bryant led the NFL with 158 points. He made 34 of 37 field goals and missed one extra point in 57 attempts.

The 41-year-old veteran scored at least six points in all 16 regular-season games. He registered 10 or more points eight times as he broke his own Falcons’ scoring record (143 in 2012) for most points in a season.

Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are touchdown manufacturers. Freeman scored 13 (11 rushing; 2 receiving) and Coleman got 11 (8; 3).

The two accounted for 19 of the team’s 20 rushing touchdowns. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel had the other.

And finally, quarterback Matt Ryan, the league’s highest-rated passer at 117.1, threw a career-high 38 touchdown passes. Only Aaron Rodgers (40) tossed more.

But Ryan attempted 76 fewer passes than Rodgers. His touchdown percentage (7.12) was greater than that of Rodgers (6.56).

The Packers and Falcons last met in the Georgia Dome on Oct. 30. In falling 33-32, Green Bay struggled to limit Atlanta’s scoring.

The Packers gave up points in every quarter. They yielded scores on six of nine Falcons’ drives. They allowed their hosts to chalk up a healthy 0.59 points per play average.

With that in mind, Sunday’s championship game may be one in which the Packers need to score 40 or more to win. Problem is, Atlanta hasn’t allowed a total like that in more than two seasons.

sportingcharts.com, pro-football-reference.com and nflgsis.com were used as reference for this article.

Postseason series

Overall: Green Bay leads 2-1

At the Georgia Dome: Packers lead 1-0

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (9-6 overall; 1-0 vs. Atlanta)

Falcons: Matt Ryan (2-4 overall; 0-1 vs. Green Bay)

Getting their points across

Teams that scored 400 or more points during the 2016 regular season.

Pts.   Team            Record

540   Falcons        11-5

469   Saints           7-9

441   Patriots        14-2

432   Packers        10-6

421   Cowboys      13-3

418   Cardinals     7-8-1

416   Raiders         12-4

411   Colts            8-8

410   Chargers      5-11

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