Another wacky game from these Atlanta Falcons, who somehow still have a shot at the NFC South with a 5-7 record. A highly questionable call and a boneheaded penalty highlight (lowlight?) the head-scratchers from the Falcons’s loss to the Commanders.
Arnold Ebiketie blossoming
First-year pass rusher Arnold Ebiketie was a force to be reckoned with in the first half, and if you couldn’t help but think about his continued progression and what it will mean for the defensive front of this team in the future. He was a game-wrecker — plain and simple. He completely blew up two plays in the first half, and likely would’ve been a big factor in the second had he not been ruled out due to injury.
The Falcons have not had an impactful rusher on the edge in what seems like eons, and it’s been a joy to watch Ebiketie work and continue to grow along the defensive line.
Ground game and offensive line
The rushing attack continues to carry the load for Atlanta’s offense, and the story was the same against Washington. Running backs Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, and quarterback Marcus Mariota all saw success against a very stout Commanders front, with the team rushing for 167 yards.
They owe a large chunk of that success to the offensive line, who consistently created space for the ball carriers behind them to do work.
Second-half run defense collapses
This is now officially a four-alarm fire. After just allowing 44 rushing yards to Washington in the first half, Atlanta surrendered nearly 100 in the third quarter alone. The Commanders certainly made some adjustments at the half, but it’s apparent that the Falcons are missing defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham big time.
With the secondary leaking like a sieve the entire season, the recent woes up front are concerning, to put it mildly. The Falcons allowed 176 rushing yards on the day.
Yep — this is the one. You knew it would be, so here it is: why in the world were the Falcons passing on 1st & Goal from the two-yard-line with the Commanders completely out of timeouts? You can make the argument that had Marcus Mariota’s pass not been picked off, Cordarrelle Patterson would have been in for the score.
That still doesn’t make it a good play call, and the outcome simply makes it worse. After relying on the run game all day — with success — Arthur Smith inexplicably chose a short flip over the middle instead of rolling with what was working for the majority of the contest. There’d be little to gripe about had that play been called after a couple of rushing tries. Dialing it up as the first play of the series made very little sense.
To put the spoiled icing on the Falcony cake, linebacker Ade Ogundeji’s running into the kicker penalty cemented the loss for Atlanta when they would have had one possession left. Considering the situation, he was clearly trying to make a play on the ball — but situational awareness meant he absolutely had to avoid post-kick contact. Ogundeji failed in that regard.