Being able to write a win recap, after two loss recaps is arguably the highlight of my weekend. Atlanta picks up another home win Sunday over the Houston Texans after Younghoe Koo kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. As always there was good, some not-so-good, so let's not waste any time and break it down!
Going into the game, the biggest question was whether Desmond Ridder would perform to a high enough standard to keep his job. Well, it is safe to say Ridder will make the start next week after a stellar performance. Atlanta's gunslinger didn't just lead his team to another fourth-quarter comeback win but also put up some awe-inspiring numbers.
The stat line of 28/37, 329 yards, 2 total touchdowns, and zero interceptions would be the best of Ridder's career as he's never thrown for 300-plus yards before. Another interesting stat of Ridder's career is he is 31-0 in home games between college and the NFL (hopefully not jinxing him). Still, hopefully, those wins can start carrying over to away games. Also, look how well he performed in the second half!
Overall, it just felt really good to see Ridder perform well and silence all the haters. Ridder made some nice passes and showed off his arm strength and accuracy. I enjoy watching his ability to fit the ball in tight windows.
Now, that does come with a risk if Ridder just misses his target by an inch his throw could result in an interception. But, I think it is still something you like to see from a young QB, rather than playing super-conservative. Arguably my favorite throw from Ridder on Sunday: one, the back-shoulder throws to London are just a treat to football fans, two the energy from London after the catch is priceless.
Moving onto the backfield, I said in the preview that it would be nice to see some diversity in the backfield between Atlantas' three ball carriers. Even with not having the best rushing attack on Sunday (or a standard Atlanta rushing attack), we saw a mix of RBs. The FOX broadcast mentioned a quote from Arthur Smith, "We need to get Allgeier more involved".
Smith did just that giving Allgeier 17 carries, which led the team. Bijan was right behind him with 14 carries, Ridder carried the ball 4 times himself, and Khadarel Hodge (WR) drew 1 carry. The only other Falcons RB who didn't see a carry was Cordarrle Patterson. Patterson did have a catch for seven yards and did play five total snaps (an increase from last week), CP was also in as the Falcons return man.
I still think the Falcons want to slowly increase the offensive snaps for Patterson, Atlanta has two very talented RBs, so there's no reason to rush a third in the mix. A final mention of Bijan, it would be shameful of me not to mention his touchdown and say, "How the heck did he do that?" Oh, what an incredible angle too.
Going back to the passing game, but this time the receivers/tight ends. Kyle Pitts had a game that fantasy managers and Falcons fans were hoping for. Pitts had 7 catches for 87 yards on 11 targets, that would be the Falcon's sixth win when Pitts has over 80 receiving yards.
So what worked well, that gave Pitts his biggest game of the season? Well, first of all, we know he's a freak of an athlete at 6'6'', 246 pounds, which helps a ton. But it seemed like a lot of Pitts catches were on crossing routes, or corner/out routes to the left. Thanks to Next Gen Stats we have the answer, and sure enough when Pitts goes to the left he has much more production in the passing game.
Defensively, the Falcons had another strong performance- which gave the offense plenty of opportunities to score. To be able to hold a team to one touchdown, that averages 24.0 points a game is nothing short of impressive. Atlantas' third-down defense was also incredible, holding the Texans to 4-13 (30.8%) on third-down conversions.
However, Atlanta failed to sack C.J. Stroud, in a game where the team you're facing has had one of the better passing attacks in the league, you'd like to see that sack number be more than a goose egg. But, it doesn't seem like Smith is too worried.
Getting to the QB is super important, as Smith pointed out. However, there are other ways you can get under the QB's skin, and one of those ways is pass coverage. Atlanta has a very talented group of defensive backs this year. The defense ranks 7th in passing yards against, and if the D-line isn't getting sacks, then that credit has to go to your DB's being able to do well in pass coverage. Here's an example of how well they are in pass coverage.
In the end, a win is a win even if it wasn't the prettiest of games. There were two turnovers made by Jonu Smith and Bijan that killed the momentum that the offense had going during the two separate drives. But, again seeing Ridder perform the way he did and watching the offense have more rhythm was very pleasing to the eye.
Atlanta will stay home next week (thank the Lord) and take on the Washington Commanders. The Commanders have been on a bit of a skid, as they dropped their last three and most recently against the Chicago Bears. Still, this team has a spark of youth between Brian Robinson Jr. and Sam Howell, and Terry Mclaurin is one of the better deep threats in the league. Except for the preview for that game to be up by the end of the week right here on Third Down Thursdays!
(When give up zero sacks, you have to take a group photo)