Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dee Alford, (37) celebrates his interception with teammates after his interception during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Falcons won 23-20. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Cleveland Browns 23-20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, lifting the Falcons to a 2-2 mark on the young season. Atlanta ran for 202 yards, headlined by 84 rushing yards by rookie Tyler Allgier. Here are the three lessons from the win today.

“Run The Damn Ball!”

In most instances, many coaches would minimize any risk while a football game is being played. Distilled down, a football game would look like this: run the football, control the clock, play sound defense and win the game. In the Falcons case, they brought back the mantra of exotic smashmouth football.

The Falcons had the ball when it was 2nd and 7 on their 32 yard line in the third quarter. Marcus Mariota threw an interception to the Browns’ Denzel Ward. On the next Falcons possession, head coach Arthur Smith called fourteen run plays. The drive ended with a touchdown by Caleb Huntley. 

Is it time for Ridder?

Through four games, Mariota has completed 58.2% of his passes, thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions with a quarterback rating of 73.9. The Falcons have won their first two games despite his performance. Additionally, the Falcons have lost their first two games largely because of his performance. The calls for rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder were loud on social media and inside The Benz (which was open today). There’s little chance Ridder will replace Mariota anytime soon. However, we have seen signs of life in Pittsburgh today when Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin replaced starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in favor of rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. 

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dee Alford, second from right, runs an interception during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Falcons won 23-20. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Atlanta is learning to win close games

Each of the last four Falcons games have been decided by four points or less. On the final drive, Grady Jarrett sacked Cleveland quarterback Jacoby Brissett on second and 15 and defensive back Dee Alford secured the win with an interception. Coupled with last week’s win in Seattle, the Atlanta Falcons defense is beginning to make plays when it matters most. 

Paying it forward 

Next week, the Falcons travel to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers with kickoff scheduled for 1:00 PM. 

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...