Arthur Smith’s offense came alive in a way we’ve yet to see during his tenure as Falcons head coach, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to hold off the Washington Football Team. A major theme of Smith’s postgame press conference was the missed opportunities by his team, not just down the stretch but throughout the afternoon.
“Obviously frustrating when you don’t finish games,” Smith said after the loss. “We had multiple opportunities to win that game. We didn’t. … We had plenty of chances to go pick the ball. We didn’t. You have to give Washington credit. They made plays when they had to. Quarterback extended plays. He threw them up there and their guys came down.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the same theme popped up in Smith’s Monday afternoon press conference, but he had the benefit of being able to watch the film and dive into some specifics. Here are a few key takeaways from Monday’s presser.
A sense of urgency surrounding team’s needed improvement
After last week’s gritty and close road win against the Giants, the Falcons coaching staff made it a point to state that NFL teams are a work in progress. The goal is to continue improving at this time of year and achieving incremental growth that should result in wins.
The Falcons showed plenty of growth against Washington, especially on offense, but the end result is all that truly matters. An ugly win last week, a prettier loss this week. Guess which one Smith would rather have? Now sitting at 1-3 on the season, Smith is sensing that the turnaround needs to happen sooner rather than later. As Tori McElhaney tweeted from the press conference, there needs to be more urgency with this team.
"We have to improve and we have to do it in a hurry." Arthur Smith said he still feels like the Falcons missed too many opportunities that would have changed the outcome of the game.— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) October 4, 2021
No updates on the injury front
While it was Washington who really felt the brunt of the injury bug on Sunday, there were a few notable Falcons who went down during the action. Most notable among them was starting nickel corner Isaiah Oliver, who was carted off the field after taking a hit while blitzing the quarterback. He was initially ruled doubtful to return and then declared out for the remainder of the action.
Punter Cam Nizialek also left the game after apparently injuring his kicking leg on a kickoff, and he was not able to return to the action either. On Monday, it was announced that punter Dustin Colquitt was signed off the practice squad and added to Atlanta’s 53-man roster, which may give some indication of Nizialek’s long-term status. Finally, safety Erik Harris, who made several pass breakups on Sunday, was also among those injured during the game.
As of Monday afternoon, Smith said he did not have any injury updates to provide. Typically, serious injuries are known by the time Monday’s press conference rolls around, but given that this is a new regime running things, they may have a different way of doing things. Players are off Tuesday, and that’s often a day for transactions to occur around the league. Perhaps we will know more then.
Falcons HC Arthur Smith said no updates yet on Isaiah Oliver, Erik Harris or Cam Nizialek, who all suffered injuries Sunday.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) October 4, 2021
Smith expects more from Calvin Ridley moving forward
This season, Calvin Ridley was expected to assume the role of No. 1 receiver in Atlanta’s offense following the Julio Jones trade. Although he currently leads the Falcons with 255 receiving yards, Ridley has yet to look like the dominant receiver many expected him to be. Even without Jones on the field throughout his first three seasons, Ridley was a nightmare for opposing defenses. So far, he’s been a mildly uncomfortable night’s sleep.
For the first time in his career, Ridley has not had a 100-yard receiving game through the first four games of the season. His one touchdown also represents a new career-low through the first four games of a season. This is a player prone to blistering starts out of the gate, but he’s struggling to really assert himself on this offense. Against Washington, Ridley saw 13 targets and caught seven passes for 80 yards. He had multiple drops on potentially big plays, and although they were difficult catches, Ridley is expected to make those.
When asked about Ridley on Monday, Smith made it clear that the team has higher expectations for the fourth-year receiver.
Mike Davis not getting the blame for final series
While holding onto a 2-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Falcons dialed up three plays for Mike Davis – two runs and a screen – to try and salt the game away. Those three plays resulted in 6 yards and a subsequent punt that lead to Washington scoring the game-winning touchdown. Some criticized the conservative approach late in the game, and others questioned whether or not Cordarrelle Patterson or Wayne Gallman should have gotten a chance to carry the ball in that spot.
Despite the early success Patterson has enjoyed, it’s clear Smith trusts Davis and views him still as the lead back.
“It’s all fair. But we trust Mike Davis,” Smith said after the game. “That’s why he’s in there. It’s about ball security, making the right decisions, making the right reads. That one is pretty obvious.”
On Monday, Smith reiterated that belief. He pointed to all 11 members of the offense as bearing responsibility for the three-and-out so late in the game, and it’s a good reminder that the ball carrier isn’t solely culpable for a play failing. Davis scored a very impressive touchdown on a 7-yard catch, and he knocked aside essentially a defender per yard on his way to the end zone. Still, the veteran back gained just 14 yards on 13 carries, so better days are hopefully ahead.
Arthur Smith said "everybody has to do their job" in the run game. It's not just on Mike Davis. "It's all 11," he said.— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) October 4, 2021