Atlanta Falcons 2020 Season Recapby Mason Thompson January 10, 2021 0 comments
Entering the 2020 season, the Atlanta Falcons had a few questions. They were 3-9 with four games left to go in the 2019 season, yet they won all of those games to save Dan Quinn’s job. Quinn was on the hot seat entering this season. Atlanta entered the season with lofty expectations with Matt Ryan and the tandem of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley still intact. Unfortunately, the Falcons never got their footing and finished the season with a record of 4-12.
The Falcons once led 29-10 against the Cowboys in Week 2 and 26-10 against the Bears in Week 3. Atlanta managed to lose both of those games and start 0-5. On October 11th, both Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were fired. Raheem Morris replaced Quinn, and with Morris as the interim coach, the Falcons went 4-7 in the final 11 games.
What Went Right
Ridley has seemingly taken grasp of the top receiver role in Atlanta with Jones struggling to stay healthy. On 143 targets, Ridley caught 90 passes for over 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns. He has transformed into one of the league’s top young receivers and will be a mainstay on the team for years to come.
Ryan had another season where he performed well. Despite the coaching change, Ryan put up similar numbers to what he did during the 2019 season. He completed 65 percent of his passes for over 4,500 yards and 26 touchdowns. His interception total dipped from 14 in 2019 to 11 this year. After being sacked 48 times in 2019, that number dropped to 41 this year. He did that with Jones missing seven games.
Atlanta sent second and fifth-round picks to the Baltimore Ravens to acquire Hayden Hurst and a fourth-round pick. Hurst was once the 25th overall selection in the 2018 draft but was out shadowed by Mark Andrews on the Ravens. In his two years at Baltimore, he had 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns. This year, Hurst had 56 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns. He is the tight end of the future and should be retained by the new regime.
What Went Wrong
Along with the two disappointing losses against the Cowboys and Bears early in the season, the Falcons continued to choke games away after Quinn was let go. In Week 7 against the Lions, the Falcons were inside the red zone and just had to kick a field goal to win the game.
Unfortunately, while they were winding down the clock, Todd Gurley burst through the line and accidentally scored a touchdown. The Lions drove the length of the field and won on the final play of the game. The Falcons lost, or won technically, the choke bowl against the Chargers in Week 14 as Ryan threw two costly interceptions in the final three minutes, and the Chargers won on a last-second field goal. In Week 15, the Falcons opened up a 15-point lead against the Buccaneers but lost the game with some help from the refs. Finally, in Week 16, the Falcons dropped multiple interceptions and missed a game-tying field goal.
While the offense was firing on almost all cylinders, the defense continued to struggle. Atlanta’s defense finished 29th in yards allowed and had the worst pass defense in the league that allowed over 290 passing yards per game. The Falcons only created 29 sacks as well.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Calvin Ridley
As stated earlier, Ridley has seemingly taken over as the top receiver in Atlanta thanks to Jones being consistently injured. He’s one of the best young receivers in the game and will be a piece of the Falcons future that the new regime will need to retain.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Matt Hennessy
Hennessy was the only offensive selection the Falcons used in the draft class. When the Falcons selected Hennessy, it was clear that he would be taking over for Alex Mack next season at center as Mack’s contract expires this offseason. Hennessy has split time with James Carpenter at left guard this season and allowed only one sack to Za’Darius Smith.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – A.J. Terrell
When the Falcons selected Terrell with the 16th pick, many thought it was a reach. Throughout his first year, Terrell was targeted 102 times and allowed 71 receptions. Those aren’t great numbers by any means, but he showed more confidence as the season wore on. Terrell is the top cornerback in a young trio that also includes Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield.
Biggest Surprise – Russell Gage
Gage improved upon his 2019 season this year. He set highs in targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns this year. He was targeted 109 times and caught 72 passes for 786 yards and four touchdowns. Gage is the locked-in third receiver for the Falcons and will look to improve next year on the career highs he set this season.
Biggest Disappointment – Dante Fowler
Fowler signed a massive three-year contract worth $45 million in the offseason. He only had three sacks on the season. The Falcons have to be upset with how Fowler and the defense as a whole played last season.
One Burning Question
What does Atlanta do with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones?
With a new general manager and head coach soon to be at the helm, questions are swirling about both Ryan and Jones and their future with the Falcons. The two alone account for over $63 million of the cap space for next season, so it may be difficult to move on from even one of the two. According to overthecap.com, the Falcons have the third-lowest amount of salary cap and are over the cap by at least $24 million. There is almost no way that Atlanta can move on from either of their two stars. It would be wise to use their first-round pick on a potential replacement for Ryan. Atlanta has the fourth pick in the draft.