After Thursday night’s 25-0 loss against the New England Patriots, the Atlanta Falcons sit at 4-6. In the last two games, the Falcons have been outscored 68-3. Also, Atlanta has converted 3-of-22 third downs during that span. After the Patriots game, head coach Arthur Smith promised those issues will be fixed.
“It feels ugly right now and at this moment you feel pretty poor,” Smith said during the postgame press conference. “We have to fix things and we’re going to get them fixed. We’ll get them fixed in a hurry. We’ll get out of this hole because we have to, and we will because we’ve got the right guys to do it.”
With seven games to go and a matchup against Jacksonville this upcoming Sunday, there won’t be much to unpack about that game unless they lose in Duval County. With all due respect to Jacksonville and the Detroit Lions, the Falcons will face five teams that are in the playoff chase.
Let’s be honest: there is no way Arthur Smith can fix this team because this roster is bereft and starved of talent.
Now that’s clear, what needs fixing?
This paragraph is directed to the Falcons fans residing inside of Atlanta city limits and on social media: Matt Ryan is not the reason why the Falcons stink. Yes, you love quarterbacks that can run and throw. See Lamar Jackson and Michael Vick. However, the reason Tom Brady and Drew Brees were able to play and be effective into their 40s was because of a sound running game and having an offensive line that could protect the QB. I bring that up because the Falcons are contractually tied to Ryan through 2023 and his cap number would be $48.6 million in 2022 and $43.6 million in 2023. Ryan will be 38 when his current contract runs out. As much as you all want Ryan gone, he’s stuck here. To his credit, Ryan has not thrown anyone in the organization under the bus. He’s toed the company line and been a good soldier for Atlanta.
Secondly, the offensive line needs repairs. Over the years, the Falcons have invested draft capital in Kaleb McGary, Matt Hennessy, and Jalen Mayfield with very little to show for it. Quarterback Matt Ryan was hit six times during last Thursday’s game; the Falcons still can’t run the ball when it matters, and defenses know this offensive line cannot blow anyone off the ball. This is not a new phenomenon. Anybody remember the famous offensive linemen Wes Schweitzer, Mike Person, Ben Garland, Jamon Brown, James Carpenter and Brandon Fusco?
This year, Ryan has been able to get the ball out quickly. He’s completed 67.7% of his passes, threw 15 touchdowns and ten interceptions. Through ten games, the Falcons have given up 20 sacks. This isn’t good.
Here’s another uncomfortable truth: The Falcons defense is terrible. Through ten games, Atlanta’s defenders have allowed 123.3 yards rushing per game, 25th in the league and 10.5 yards per completion, and 28.8 points per game, which is third worst in the league. While defensive tackle Grady Jarrett has played well this year, the Falcons have only sacked quarterbacks 4% of the time which is the worst percentage in the NFL.
I don’t have to manipulate stats to convey the message I want to deliver: It is hard to deliver a winner with journeymen. In our recap following Thursday’s loss, there are 22 players on the Falcons roster on one-year contracts. This defense needs a quality pass rusher, quality depth and a starting caliber cornerback. There is no guarantee that any of those action items will be addressed in the offseason.
This season will not be a clear indication of what the new coaching staff can do because the Atlanta Falcons, as currently constructed, cannot win in the trenches. Owner Arthur Blank and Rich McKay hired Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith with the clear directive to shift the culture. While we want to be aroused and entertained by the Dirty Birds, the ship has sailed on the 2021 season.