It seems like the last three Falcons wins have resulted in me going to a cardiologist (kidding, of course). But still, the previous three Falcon's wins have come on a Younghoe Koo kick in the fourth quarter's final seconds. There will be no complaints here; ultimately, it just matters how many wins you have and not necessarily how you get them. But, man, can the Falcons win a game outright? I don't know if my heart can take another last-second kick to win the game. Anyway, let's relive Koo's third winning kick of the year.
In what was a game filled with, "What the heck." "Oh my ", and "I can't believe what I'm watching," there was one question that lingered on my mind and others of the whole NFL community, "Where the heck is Bijan Robinson?" Bijan wasn't listed on the injury report before the game or during the week, so there wasn't any reason to think he was hurt. However, it was reported by the FOX broadcast that "he was not just feeling right," per Arthur Smith. Bijan confirmed after the game that he was dealing with a headache and not feeling 100%. The coaching staff did not want to "overdo it."
As expected, the Bijan-less Falcons offense struggled with pointing points on the board, with the leading cause being turnovers. Desmond Ridder didn't throw any interceptions this week and looked well, passing the ball. Ridder didn't throw any touchdowns but did use his legs to score six. The young gunslinger ended with a final line of 19/25 for 250 yards, good enough for a 107.1 rating. This deep ball to former Buccaneer Scotty Miller was impressive and once more shows Ridder's arm talent.
However, it wasn't all pretty, as Ridder was credited with three loss fumbles, even if they weren't his fault. All three fumbles occurred in the red zone, and all could've resulted in points. The first fumble happened at the end of the first half, but Atlanta shouldn't even run the play. It was 3rd and 11, the clock was stopped, and the Falcons were out of timeouts with 25 seconds left in the half. Atlanta should've just kicked the field goal since the clock was stopped. Maybe the Bucs take the ball back and get a field goal themselves, but once more, there would've been less than 25 seconds left on the clock, and the Falcons get the ball to start the second half. The second fumble came at Tampa Bay's one-yard line, where Ridder fumbled the snap. Blame it on Drew Dalman or Ridder; either way, you can't have that happen, especially at the opposing team's one-yard line. Finally, the third fumble (which was the worst, in my opinion) came in the endzone. Ridder just about crossed the goal line when Antonie Winfield snuck right behind the ball and was able to punch it out, resulting in a touchback.
I have stood by Ridder all season and will continue to do so; remember, it's his 11th game- there's still so much to develop, and he has shown improvement every game. But the turnovers have to stop. We saw in the Washtigon loss, where Ridder threw three picks, and how greatly it affected the chance for the Falcons to win. Luckily, this week, the defense was able to stop any momentum Tampa Bay had after the turnover. Regardless, turnovers shoot a team in the foot so much, and with the position the Falcons offense is in, they cannot afford to turn it over six times in two games.
A final note on the offense: the rushing attack was still strong in Bijan's absence (only had one carry). Atlanta ran for 156 yards on 38 carries, Tyler Allgeier and Cordarerlle Patterson took the carries at the RB position, and Ridder provided 38 yards on six carries himself. It's nice to see the Falcons offense still dominate in the rushing game without having Bijan. Patterson and Allgeier took most of the carries last year for the Falcons, and it was a beauty to see both of those guys control the backfield. Hopefully, we can see more of a balanced rushing attack in weeks to come.
Moving onto the defense, which has been nothing short of spectacular and is the reason the Falcons are 4-3. Despite only having 13 sacks on the season and six total turnovers, the Dirty Bird's defense is third in the NFL regarding average yards given up per game at 285.4. Atlanta's defense also stood their ground and carried the Falcons to a win.
The pass rush recorded three more sacks against Baker Mayfield on Sunday. That's now eight sacks in the last two games. Two weeks ago, Atlanta was tied for last in sacks in the NFL. They are now 24th, which isn't great by any means, but improvements are being made. If this defense keeps the improvements going, dangerous things could be happening. I haven’t made much mention of any trade rumors, but as the trade deadline approaches, Atlanta could be in store for a pass rusher (Danielle Hunter?), which will have to be a story for another time.
Continuing with the defense, but now focusing on turnovers. Atlanta recorded two of them on Sunday. The first came on a fumble that was forced about by Nate Landman in the third quarter and picked up by LaCale London. The second turnover came at a high-leverage point in the game, right after the third Ridder fumble. Richie Grant got his first turnover of the season by picking off Mayfield in Atlanta's part of the field.
Finally, the last piece of defense I want to quickly mention is the amount of rushing touchdowns that the Falcons have given up. Atlanta has given up one rushing touchdown so far this season; I'll give you one guess on which runningback it was. It wasn't a running back; it was actually Jared Goff who had the only rushing touchdown against the Falcons. Atlanta will truly be tested on how good their rushing defense is once they face Derrick Henry and the Titans this Sunday.
Even if it wasn't the cleanest of games offensively, moving to 2-0 in the NFC South is a massive step for a team that wasn't projected to win the division at the beginning of the year. Atlanta will stay on the road and face the aforementioned Tennessee Titans. This will be the first time Arthur Smith will coach in Tennessee after leaving for the head coaching job in Atlanta. As I am typing this, Adam Schefter has reported that Ryan Tannehill is not practicing today (Tuesday); Malik Willis and Will Levis will both play if Tannehill can't play. Even if Henry isn't the running back he has been in the last couple of years, it will still be a challenge for the defense, especially if both the young QBs play, as they will likely give him a good amount of carries. As always, I'll have a more in-depth preview against the Titans at the end of the week, right here on Third Down Thursdays!
(This is too good not to include and have a little chuckle.)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)