The old saying, "You can't win them all," came true for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday as they were handed their first loss of the 2023 campaign. The most important thing I want to say is that it's only one loss, and there is so much season left. It also helps that the Falcons are still first in the NFC South, with the Saints, Panthers, and Buccaneers all suffering losses as well. However, every one of the Falcons' weaknesses got exposed by the Lions, and they need to be addressed and fixed if they want to keep being competitive. Let's dig in and look at what went wrong for the Dirty Birds.
Dirty Bird Defense??? In THIS Economy????
The biggest positive on Sunday was the defense (I can't believe I'm saying that about the Falcons), while only giving up 13 points through about three and a half quarters, the defense gave Atlanta plenty of opportunities to get back in the game. Jessie Bates continued his monster first season in Atlanta with his third interception. The former Cincinnati Bengal would also end the day with a team and game-high 11 tackles. With that said, Bates' interception didn't translate into anything, as the Falcons proceeded to go four-and-out offensively.
A big sore spot, meanwhile, was the Falcons' pass rush. They winded up with zero sacks despite ending the day with over a half dozen QB hits. Jared Goff had all day to throw and ended up going 22/33 for 243 yards, plus a touchdown through the air and on the ground. Sadly, most of the performance by the defense was covered up by the offense not being able to put the ball in the endzone.
Motor City Traffic Jam
Moving on to the offense, there wasn't much to write home about. Giving the Lions credit, they stopped the Falcons' offense exactly how a team should: Collasping in on the run game and forcing Ridder to beat you himself.
Atlanta had to move away from their bread and butter, only running the ball 20 times for 44 yards. The most troubling result to me was Tyler Allgeier only had seven carries. In a game filled with aggression, your running back, who can dish out a ton of it, must handle the rock more. I also believe that the more carries Allgeier would've seen would've opened the play-action game. With no rushing attack and little opportunity to run any sort of play-action looks, Ridder and the offense slowly saw their day fade away.
Ridder probably looked his worst in a Falcons uniform on Sunday, going 21/38 for 201 yards. The 38 attempts are the number that blows me away, the highest in Ridder's seven starts. Does Ridder need to perform better? Obviously. Will we see improvements? I'm sure of it. But there were some ugly plays, much of that has to do with the amount of pressure the offensive line gave up. Ridder was sacked a grand total of seven times and was hit eight times. One of those ugly plays was the play-action pass where Ridder nearly got Jonnu Smith sent to the shadow realm.
Fingers can be pointed at the offensive performance. Whether it be Ridder, the O-line, or even the receiver's lack of ability to separate. But this all comes back to one person, the Head Coach/play-caller Arthur Smith. A reason I believe the receivers couldn't get open was the route combinations. A lot of two-man route combinations were being called, leaving eight men in pass pro, and even then, the Falcons gave up a ton of pressure. I understand the reasoning to try and protect Ridder as much as possible, but when you only have two or three guys running routes that can't get open, what good is it? Smith did have this to comment on how the Lion's pressure affected some of the play calls:
A Long Way to Go
No matter how you cut it, it was just an ugly loss by the Dirty Birds. But that's why they give you 17 weeks to right the ship. I have faith that improvements will be made ahead of next week's game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Going across the Atlantic can be tough on a team, as it's a long plane ride and a big time zone shift. The Jags have a ton of talent at their disposal. Featuring a fast-athletic defense and a big-play offense led by Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence. It will also be Calvin Ridley's first game against his former team. Catch the preview right here on ThirdDownThursdays at the end of the week!
Final Score: Detroit Lions 20, Atlanta Falcons 6
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