The difference between the 2017 Atlanta Falcons offense and the 2016 version is stark.
Last year, under Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons led the league with 33.8 points per game and were top five in the NFL in passing yards per game (295.3). They were also top five in limiting turnovers per game (0.7). This season, under Steve Sarkisian, the Falcons' offensive numbers are down across the board, earning 21.3 points per game, 252.0 passing yards per game and 1.2 giveaways per game (1.2).
Returning nine of 11 starters from 2016, most expected the Falcons to seamlessly transition under Sarkisian. The change has been anything but smooth as Atlanta has been particularly inefficient during the latest three-game skid, earning 13.7 points per game.
After soaring to an MVP with last season's output, Matt Ryan has crashed back to Earth. Ryan's passer rating has fallen by 27.8 points from last season (117.1 in 2016, 89.3 in 2017), the biggest drop-off of any qualified quarterback this season. The QB is tired of comparing last year's offense to the 2017 version.
"We have to find a way for this team to play the way that we're capable of as a team," Ryan said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We can't worry about last year. I know that constantly gets brought up, but as players we are not thinking about last year.
"We are not playing good enough as a unit in 2017. Frankly, I don't really care to go back to 2016. It's not useful for us."
There is little noticeable difference in the offensive tendencies between years.
The real noticeable difference comes from the scaling back of pre-snap movement Shanahan utilized, which helped get pass-catchers open. It's evident to anyone watching the game that Falcons receivers aren't seeing nearly the same free releases and wide-open spaces as they saw in last year's scheme. Ryan was throwing to players galloping in green space a year ago. Now he's trying to fit balls in tight windows and coming up short.
Another difference is the decline in using running backs in the passing game, particularly Tevin Coleman in space. In the past two games, the shifty back has seen just two targets for four yards on only 16 routes run.
"It just didn't go that way for whatever reason," Ryan said of Coleman's lack of production in the passing game. "Sometimes the ball finds different guys. I think the production from Julio [Jones] has probably been higher the last two weeks than it has been earlier in the season."
Ryan's struggles throwing the deep ball have also been a major part of the storyline in Atlanta. The 2016 MVP is off by just a hair on seemingly every shot. In last week's loss to the Patriots, Ryan went 0-4 on tosses of 20 yards or more.
Despite the struggles, Ryan insists the offense is ready to explode at any moment.
"I think we are close," Ryan said. "Honestly, when we look at it, we are close, but you have to be precise in this league. Really precise."