Thirteen... that's the amount of points the Atlanta Falcons have scored in the past two games. After an impressive first two weeks, the Falcons have lost two straight on the road and are now 2-2.
"We've got to get this thing jumpstarted." Arthur Smith said in his postgame press conference after Sunday's 23-7 loss to the Jaguars in London. Jumpstart is the exact word I'd use to describe what needs to happen with this Falcon's offense. With only 77 yards of total offense in the first half and only one touchdown in four quarters, Atlanta was in store for a long game. From what seemed to be the Falcon's strength going into this season, the offense has been the Achilles heel for the last two games. Buckle up, this one will have some deep rants on the Atlanta offense.
The Defense Held Their End of the Bargain
Like the last recap, let's start with discussing the defense. Take away Ridder's pick-six, Jacksonville only has 16 points on the board. The Jaguar's only touchdown came in the first quarter, and of course, it was former Falcon Calvin Ridley who hauled it in for six. In the preview, I talked about Atlanta needing to get to the quarterback, and they did just that, sacking Lawerence twice and hitting him seven times. No Grady Jarret (the key defensive player in the preview) didn't have any sacks, but David Onymemata recorded 1.5 sacks, while Bud Dupree had the other half sack. You would've liked to see a little more pressure, but getting two sacks against a very good Jaguars o-line isn't something to complain about.
A quick note on playing time specifically, Jeff Okudah. After only appearing in 16% of snaps in Week 3 against Detroit, Okudah's playing time was ramped up to being on the field 74%. A lot of discussion from Atlanta coaches throughout the week, was to keep increasing Okudah's playing time week-by-week. Atlanta's defense is much better with Okudah on the field, he and A.J. Terrell have the potential to be one of the best cornerback duos in the league if both remain healthy.
Across the Pond Turnovers
Now, moving on to the offense...starting with Desmond Ridder. Ridder turned the ball over three times, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble. The worst turnover of the game was a pick-six to Darious Williams, and Ridder would throw his second interception to Andre Cisco on the next pass play (both occurred in the first half). A lot of talk around the media was if Riidder would be replaced by Taylor Heinicke in the second half. However, that was not the case, as it was reported by the ESPN broadcast that Atlanta had no thoughts of taking the young quarterback out. Ridder would throw one touchdown pass to Drake London (in London, lest we forget) on the opening drive of the second half. It was a nice back-shoulder throw on 3rd and 9 in the red zone.
This kind of throw still gives me hope with Ridder remaining in at QB, he does have the arm talent to make the tough throws. It seems most of his mistakes come from forcing the ball to a receiver or misreading coverages. On Monday's press conference, Smith was asked if Ridder would remain the starter for the upcoming matchup against the Houston Texans, Smith confirmed that Ridder would start this Sunday. I agree with keeping Ridder in the starting spot, at least for now. We need to remember that it is only his eighth start, and he clearly has a lot to work on that you can't learn from just sitting on the bench. However, he should be on a short leash- if he has an abysmal performance on Sunday, I think you have to start thinking about other options at QB. This team has talent and can't afford to be held back by the most important piece.
Moving away from Ridder, and onto the run game. Bijan Robinson had another stellar performance, running for 105 yards and catching five passes for 32 yards. Now, if Atlanta can get more red zone opportunities and let their first-round pick run wild, the Falcons could put up a plethora of points. Just look at the type of catches he can make and the ability to move the chains.
Atlanta's other runningback, Tyler Allgeier, played 15 snaps, which accounted for only 26% of the Falcon's offensive plays. There is no question that Bijan should see more touches, whether that's in the backfield or at wideout, but is Smith forgetting that he was a 1,000 rusher in his rookie year? We saw Allgeier, back in Week 1, score two touchdowns that were both three yards out from the red zone. I am sure the game plan is to give Allgeier more of the short-yardage carries, especially in the red zone, and with Atlanta not having a lot of trips inside the 20 the past two weeks, that has hurt Allgeier's chances of seeing touches.
There is so much more that we could get into on specific players, but what it all comes back to is coaching. All the struggles come back to, getting the offense in a rhythm and getting them in a rhythm early. It took Atlanta till their third drive to see a new set of downs on Sunday. All the performances have to come back to coaching. I'm not saying Arthur Smith needs to give up playcalling or step down in any matter. However, he is the one who is in charge of finding a way to get this offense going and is the one that fingers start to point to when there are not being points put on the board with all the talent that Atlanta has.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but it's been the same story the past two weeks, and with a home game due this week against a below-average team, hopefully, Atlanata and the offense can get some confidence back. Even though the Housten Texans are a below-average team, C.J. Stroud has looked very impressive to begin the season and could be a challenge for the Dirty Bird defense. Except for the preview here on Third Down Thursdays at the end of the week!
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