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Arthur Smith vows fixes, tells us to put our shovels away

In remarks to the media on Sunday and Monday, Smith stressed this team will fix what ails them.

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Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Falcons lost, but the Falcons aren’t lost. That’s a distinction Arthur Smith has been eager to drive home over the past two days with 16 games ahead and a team that spent a spring and summer talking about defying outside expectations now in an early 0-1 hole.

Smith struck a lighter tone on Monday, but he’s clearly not interested in hearing doom and gloom about the Falcons in the immediate aftermath of the game. Smith and others in the organization have seen “peripheral opponents,” as he puts it, in the critics outside the building, and there’s a sense that the team is genuinely bothered by how readily they’ve been written off in 2-15 predictions and top draft pick discussions. The problem, of course, is that no amount of pointed criticism back at media and analysts lessens that heat, and winning is the best way to make everyone shut the hell up. It’s not hard to see what Smith badly wants that outcome.

Artfully delivered or no, Smith is right that the team can hardly afford to wallow, and players were sounding very similar notes after the game. Grady Jarrett praised the fan energy in the building and said the team can’t burn it by letting the season go south, and the Falcons did enough good things and had enough clear errors that it should be possible to push this thing forward toward in a way that will lead to wins. The Rams are a tough draw, especially on long rest, but panic isn’t going to serve this team well at any point in this season, and even less so after a single game.

Smith didn’t gloss over the fact that the team made mistakes, or that they’ll need to learn from them, and was quick to say “blame me” in the aftermath of the game. With the Rams coming up next, it’s going to have to be quick adjustments and learnings, and he alluded to that on Monday when he told the press that the Rams have a head start on preparations after playing on Thursday night football. He defended the punt call, given that the Saints had no timeouts and had to go a long way, but clearly the team isn’t planning to gloss over the failures that led to another big blown lead. That’s a low bar to clear, but a welcome one to clear nonetheless.

What did go wrong, besides the late coaching decisions leading to bad outcomes? Smith called out the team’s errors of execution today, with the penalties and poor performances on critical red zone and third down plays standing out. The Falcons were improved in many ways Sunday, but they are not a good enough team to survive so many errors, and Smith knows that.

For all of the ways the Falcons fell short, though, Smith did not sound like a coach who was dreading seeing New Orleans again. The Falcons just have to be able to take nearly three quarters of strong play and turn it into four quarters. “Just.”

We also received some vague injury updates and some clarification on why Tyler Allgeier was inactive from Smith, so let’s cover those quickly.

Why was Tyler Allgeier inactive?

The Falcons parked rookie back Tyler Allgeier in favor of having Anthony Firkser active off the practice squad and Feleipe Franks active, and mentioned special teams as a factor as well. The Falcons likely thought that Cordarrelle Patterson and Damien Williams would carry them through the day and Williams’ injury wasn’t something they could foresee, but it was odd to have Franks up and not playing a single snap on offense when a bruising rookie back might have been impactful in a handful of short yardage situations.

Injuries and safety

The Falcons exited the game with only one potentially significant injury, to backup running back Damien Williams. The team clearly had plans to utilize Williams Sunday before he got hurt, which forced them to lean even more heavily on real-life superhero Cordarrelle Patterson.

The good news is that Williams did re-enter the game, and that might be a positive sign that the team will have Williams back and backing up Patterson sooner than later. We should get updates later in the week.

The safety part of this headline concerns the second half of Rothstein’s tweet, which in turn concerns Mariota. The quarterback proved to be a very effective runner much of the day, but he doesn’t always remember to slide, which creates an injury risk. Smith clearly will be harping on that with Mariota given that the team is in no rush for Desmond Ridder to start and want a healthy #1 piloting the offense. It’s also a concern because Mariota already fumbles a lot, having been in the top ten in the league for fumbles in three of his four years as a full-time starter.