The Falcons are 0-2 again, and we have another 0-2 edition of hat tips & head-scratchers. We’ve had too many of those.
A.J. Terrell’s PBU
Cornerback A.J. Terrell showed exactly why Atlanta selected him in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft with his pass break up in the first quarter. The Bucs promptly marched down the field on their opening possession, notching chunk play after chunk play, and the dagger appeared to be a deep ball from Tom Brady intended for Antonio Brown.
Terrell was able to make a fantastic play on the ball, leaping to get a finger on it and prevent what would have been a sure touchdown. tip in the red zone to stop a touchdown.
Tampa would of course score two plays later because we can’t have nice things as Falcons fans, but A.J. Terrell is certainly looking like a CB1. Hopefully he’s healthy for Week 3.
Dante Fowler’s strip-sack
We were hoping for something — anything — from pass rusher Dante Fowler, and he seemed to get the message in this one. With the Falcons desperately seeking to slow down Tampa’s momentum after its touchdown on the opening drive, he got the job done.
It’s been quite a long time coming, but Dante Fowler delivered when the Falcons needed it most. Fowler put his best Atlanta rep on tape when he bull-rushed left tackle Donovan Smith on 3rd & 20 to get to Brady and force the fumble.
Things got very Falcony after that, however, as Atlanta’s offense could not capitalize and Arthur Smith elected to punt. Still, big moment for Fowler.
What can’t be said about Cordarrelle Patterson at this point? He’s looked like Atlanta’s most explosive player on offense, and he continued his good work on Sunday with a nifty 10-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. He would tack on a receiving touchdown in the waning minutes of the third quarter for good measure.
Patterson looks like an early hit for the new regime.
The team that hit the field in the third quarter
The Falcons entered the locker room at the half treading water. Down 21-10 against the reigning Super Bowl Champions and looking absolutely abysmal in the first half, this team could have folded — which I fully expected.
I have no clue what happened during the halftime, but the team that emerged was an entire 180 from the first two quarters of this contest. I’d wager it was the best quarter of football they’ve played on both sides of the ball in a couple of years.
It didn’t last, of course, but it was a brief glimpse of what the Falcons can do.
Cameron Nizialek’s real bad day
There are strong odds that punter Cameron Nizialek is no longer with the team when they take on the Giants on Sunday.
The UGA product began the day with the first of his two glaring mishaps, shanking a punt for a paltry 30 yards from Atlanta’s 34-yard-line. The Bucs took over on their second possession with optimal field position, and if wasn’t for Dante Fowler’s strip-sack of Tom Brady, this was going to get out of hand quickly.
The one that really stands out, however, was Nizialek’s punt in the fourth quarter when Atlanta was attempting to claw its way back into the contest.
Buried on their side of the field, Cameron Nizialek again shanked one. The punt went 33 yards, giving Tampa prime position to seal the deal. They took advantage.
Arthur Smith and indecision
Arthur Smith entered this one with an emphasis on preparation, and to show that the team on the field against the Eagles was not the right representation of who the Atlanta Falcons truly are.
The problem was, he didn’t really seem to know what he wanted to do in crucial situations. His one-foot-in-one-foot-out approach to offensive playcalling resulted in a fake-punt-turned-real-punt after the Falcons had forced a fumble from Tom Brady in the first quarter, to then attempting a fourth-down conversion (which failed) from nearly the same spot on the field on the next drive.
If you’re not confident enough to get aggressive on fourth-down after a turnover, why would you then go for it on fourth-down in practically the same field position on your next offensive possession?
It’s like he could not decide if he was going to trust his defense or offense in the first half. In his slight defense, neither could really be trusted for the first two quarters — but Dante Fowler delivered an opportunity and he elected to punt, and then tried a quarterback sneak on fourth down next drive.