It was gritty and will never be mistaken as a “pretty” win but nonetheless, the Atlanta Falcons found themselves on the victory stage last week against the New York Giants. A 40-yard field goal as time expired by kicker Younghoe Koo gave the Falcons their first win of the season and helped the Falcons dodge an ugly 0-3 start.
Regardless of how you want to view it or dress it up, a win is a win and now the Falcons look to take on another NFC East opponent with hopes of getting their record to the even mark. That would be a nice accomplishment given how their season started. Let’s dive into the preview.
Game: Falcons vs. Washington Football Team
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Time and television: Oct. 3rd, 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX
Key in-game matchup: Falcons offensive line vs. WFT defensive front
Unquestionably the matchup that will have the biggest impact on the game. On the surface, the Washington Football Team defense is one that has not played up to expectations this season. It is a unit that is ranked 30th overall, 21st in yards per play allowed, 29th in total first downs allowed, and 28th in total points allowed.
However, I am a believer in the numbers that we see are painting an incomplete picture at this point. There is too much talent, especially in the front seven, to allow me to use the numbers as true validation to their identity. At some point, the light switch will turn on. When it does, it will mirror the same unit as last year that was sixth in sacks and fourth in the NFL in pressure rate.
The Falcons offense has seen better days in the past. While it resembles a unit that is still trying to figure out exactly who they are, protecting quarterback Matt Ryan will always remain the top priority. Improvement in that department has been evident in each game this season, but this may prove to be a very dangerous test if the Washington defense finally wakes up.
One key player to watch: Cordarrelle Patterson
Remember early in the offseason when we lauded general manager Terry Fontenot for having a keen eye on adding veteran talent to rosters for cheap? Well, that ability of his is paying off on the offensive side of the ball so far this season.
Nine-year veteran Cordarrelle Patterson has been a gem for the Falcons when on the field on offense. He has 34 total touches on offense (second on the team) and averages seven yards per touch. If you want to see the impact he makes, go back and check the last two drives for the Falcons against the Giants and watch the pair of big plays he created to put the Falcons in scoring positions.
How he’ll be utilized against an athletic Washington defensive group will be interesting, but there is no doubt that Patterson provides more than just game-changing kickoff return ability. Hopefully he can continue to be an asset on offense
How can the Falcons win: Excel in the little things
In pure talent from top to bottom, Washington probably takes the cake. Coming into the season, this Washington team entered with high expectations. Some (including yours truly) felt highly enough of Washington Football Team to slide them in as a legitimate playoff contender.
They might still right the ship enough to be destined for the playoffs, but at this point in the season, you may get a team that starts to get a little frustrated with how things are playing out. If so, you may get an opponent that plays a little out of their comfort zone in order to correct the many things that have gone wrong on the young season so far. That means the Falcons need to cross the t’s and dot the i’s on the game of football and do the small things at an exceptional rate. From sharp tackling, to proper communication, to reducing ill-timed penalties, the Falcons must be the more well-coached, more disciplined team.
Honestly, Washington may need this win more than the Falcons, but the Falcons don’t need to simply hand them the victory. A learning lesson from last week was that clawing out a win in the NFL is sometimes necessary, and Atlanta will hope to do so again today.