Ah, the first batch of hat tips & head-scratchers to be doled out on this brand new NFL season. Atlanta controlled the majority of this game until it was doomed by coaching decisions when they counted most.
CP dominates the drive
An incredibly impressive game from Cordarrelle Patterson, which at this point should be unsurprising. The highlight of his Sunday performance took place on Atlanta’s fourth offensive drive, where he ginsu’d the Saints defense for 53 yards on eight carries. The drive was capped off his five-yard touchdown run, one where he was ushered across the plane by the offensive line.
Patterson marked career highs in carries and rushing yards, which unfortunately were spoiled by the way the contest ended.
Three-quarters worth of defense
Atlanta’s defense looked vastly improved through 75% of this game, with a line forcing pressure on Jameis Winston and blitz packages dialed up that got home. The Falcons’ defense tallied four sacks on the day. The entire defense only had 18 all of last season.
It’s definite progress.
Taysom Hill & Jameis Winston are still enigmas wrapped in an illusion and granted invisibility powers
The Falcons seemed to solve The Jameis Winston Problem for three quarters, until they fell back on their heels in a foolhardy attempt to not lose the game. They lost the game.
Taysom Hill continues to embarrass Atlanta, logging a 57-yard rush — the longest of his career — which he followed with a touchdown run.
The familiarity of these two foes and the havoc they’ve wreaked on the Falcons should mean that they would be the last ones to beat you. In 2022, both players remain persistent threats.
Mariota coughs it up
Quarterback Marcus Mariota has endured injury and subsequent derision throughout his career for trying to do much on scramble plays. That facet of his playing style was showcased on Sunday, as Mariota fumbled the ball away when the Falcons were in position to put points on the board.
He looked capable enough for the bulk of the contest, but this was a costly turnover when the Falcons were angling to salt the game away.
A masterclass in mismanagement
This was the story of the game. The Falcons had their hiccups in the first three quarters, but the defense was effective and kept quarterback Jameis Winston consistently under duress. The blitzing packages were working — and completely disrupting New Orleans’ offensive production (outside of Taysom Hill).
Then, in the fourth quarter, defensive coordinator Dean Pees inexplicably moved away from that in favor of reserves on the line and soft zone coverage in the secondary. The results were as expected, with the Saints picking up chunk yardage to eventually take the lead.
Get this: Jameis Winston did not tally a first-down pickup in the air through the first three quarters. He had 10 in the fourth — including two touchdowns.
To double down on the play-not-to-lose strategy, Arthur Smith opted to punt on 4th & 1 from the Saints’ 42-yard-line with 1:40 remaining on the clock and New Orleans out of timeouts. This after running back Cordarrelle Patterson ran over the Saints’ defense the entire game.
The fourth quarter of this game should be shown to the coaching staff ala Clockwork Orange, with their eyes pried open by little metal contraptions, until they realize that their decisions were the formula for Falconing — and the reason why this team has a reputation for choking away games. It was game management malpractice.