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3 Up, 3 Down: Much more bad than good for the Falcons

Keeping track of which Falcons are rising and falling throughout the 2021 season.

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NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine what life might be like with Dan Quinn in charge of some aspect of your football team. That would be nice, right? I’m kidding. Sort of.

As someone who always at least appreciated what Quinn brought to the table, and understood fully why he was then asked to leave that table, Sunday wasn’t totally unexpected but it was extremely disappointing for the Falcons. They didn’t even get too close to the sun. It’s more like they jumped off the cliff in an attempt to reach that sun, tried to flap their glued-on wings and plummeted to their death on the cliff side.

Anyway, here are players that did good things and not good things on the way down.

Up

TE Kyle Pitts

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

This was a very bad day for Atlanta’s offense, but Kyle Pitts still had respectable numbers. Sure, he hasn’t dominated a game since the Falcons faced the Jets and Dolphins, but Pitts caught four of the seven passes thrown his way for 60 yards. For reference, Matt Ryan only threw for 117 yards in total. Pitts still isn’t breaking games on a weekly basis, but 60 yards for a tight end game in and game out is not too shabby, especially for a rookie. Travis Kelce finished second among all receivers in 2020 with 1,416 yards, which equates to 88.5 yards per game. Pitts is not that far off, y’all.

CB A.J. Terrell

Essentially a weekly member on this list at this point, A.J. Terrell doesn’t need me to hype him up anymore. Instead, allow me to leave you with this gem of a nugget from Pro Football Focus:

“Even if the vast majority of the Falcons secondary got torched, A.J. Terrell was his usual dominant self once again. He finished with only 19 yards allowed on two catches from three targets. Ten weeks into the 2021 season, Terrell has yet to allow 100 yards in total.”

RB Wayne Gallman

NFL: NOV 14 Falcons at Cowboys Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is the first time Wayne Gallman has been mentioned in this series, and it’s probably not in the way that he’d like. That’s not to say Gallman did poorly. Quite the contrary, actually; he had more yards than anybody not named Kyle Pitts for Atlanta. Once the game got out of hand in the third quarter, Arthur Smith wisely threw in the towel for next week.

That left Gallman to get the lion’s share of the carries while the Falcons tried to literally run out the clock. He finished with 15 carries for 55 yards. Not great, but not bad. On a day when everything was really bad, that’s enough.

Down

LB Deion Jones

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

I’ve been hard on Deion Jones this season, but Sunday was just abjectly bad. It’s clear the Cowboys had a plan for handling Jones, and they executed it beautifully. Despite entering the game ranked among the league leaders in tackles, Jones only managed five total tackles and had no real impact plays against Dallas.

The Cowboys marched up and down the field in the second quarter while building their huge lead, and Jones is the player at the heart of Atlanta’s defense who is supposed to prevent that. This loss shouldn’t be pinned on Jones. Far from it. But for the Falcons to get things turned around, now and in the future, players like Jones are going to have to rise to the level expected of them.

RB Mike Davis

Yes, the Falcons pulled most of their starters in the second half, but are we sure Mike Davis deserves that type of special treatment at this point? Davis has not been nearly as effective, holistically, as the fan base expected this season. On a per-play basis, he’s fine, but that really only goes so far.

Bottom line: four carries for 18 yards is not going to cut it. Davis gets some slack for this game because of the limited opportunities, but a strong argument could be made that Arthur Smith should have left him in to get the reps and workload.

HC Arthur Smith

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta lost to its former head coach and managed to put up just three points in the process. Those are two huge red arrows that point directly to Smith as the person ultimately to blame. Smith has done a fine job getting the Falcons to four wins in his first run as a head coach in the NFL, but Sunday was pretty much a disaster.

Those who make a living in this profession have to have short memories, and I’m sure Smith has already turned the page in the right way, but he certainly expected yesterday to go differently. Now, it’s all about how he, and this team, responds.