The Falcons could have become onfield carrion for the Rams to feast on, but they willed their way into this game late — only to wind up on the losing end of it. We’ve got some tips o’ the cap and head-scratching moments for a game only a Falcons fan could love.
Mariota’s magic recovery
The scramble drill has long been a feature in Marcus Mariota’s game, sometimes to his detriment. On 4th-&-1 on Atlanta’s opening drive, however, he showed that he still make some magic happen when things around him start to go haywire.
Slipping shortly after the snap, Mariota was able to recover, find his footing, and flip a short pass to tight end Parker Hesse to convert the try.
Hayward snares a Stafford pass
An important moment right before the half, as the Rams were driving and poised to score. Quarterback Matt Stafford heaved a ball deep intended for tight end Tyler Higbee, and cornerback Casey Hayward used his frame to gain inside leverage, leaping in front of the intended receiver to snag the interception.
Should Higbee have caught that ball, the game most certainly would have been out of reach heading into halftime.
Troy Andersen blocks the punt, Lorenzo Carter returns it
It’s too early to dub him Pastor Troy, right? Probably — but plays like this mean you’re not far from some kind of ceremonious nickname. Andersen certainly made an impact Sunday where it mattered most, with the Rams looking to cling to their lead and pin Atlanta deep on the punt.
Andersen would have none of that. Bursting through the line and getting a palm on Ryan Dixon’s punt, which was scooped up by defensive end Lorenzo Carter and returned for six.
These are the game-changing plays we’re unaccustomed to seeing from the Falcons, and this one provided potential for the Falcons to steal a win against the defending Super Bowl champions.
Although this one did not end with a miracle come-from-behind finish, you have to give credit where it’s due: This team did not quit. The Falcons scraped their way to within one touchdown of taking the lead in the fourth quarter, but would ultimately mistake the game away.
In any event, previous incarnations of this team would have rolled over and clock-watched their way to the locker room. This was a different response from the Atlanta Falcons, and one that should inspire confidence down the road.
A 4th-&-2 to forget
There’s a lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacking when it comes to coaching decisions. Should they have punted? Should they have gone for it? Should they shave off the beard for better luck? All acceptable fodder for discussion after the game. What’s not up for debate, however, is the decision to dial up a run up the gut against one of the best defensive lines in the league on 4th-&-2.
That’s just what the Falcons did on their second possession, sending Cordarrelle Patterson to the altar of sacrifice that awaited him. He was promptly swallowed into the Sarlacc Pit of the Rams’ defensive front for no gain, turning the ball over on downs.
CP bobbles the pass
I believe this may be the first mention of Cordarrelle Patterson in the Head-scratchers section, but it’s the Falcons and the Head-scratch Reaper arrives for every man in due time. The normally sure-handed back bobbled a flip from quarterback Marcus Mariota which was sniped by Rams corner Decobie Durant and returned for 51 yards.
The Rams scored on a Cooper Kupp touchdown reception three plays later.
A step back for the defensive line
After tallying four sacks in the season opener, Atlanta’s defensive line came up empty against Los Angeles. This was against a Rams offensive front that allowed seven sacks the week prior.
We saw marked improvement in the defense’s ability to generate pressure against the Saints. Fingers crossed it wasn’t a fluke.
Kyle Pitts on a milk carton
Kyle Pitts is a fantastic blocker. He aids in the run, he assists in the passing game — he’s a selfless and well-rounded guy on offense. To be abundantly clear, however: The Atlanta Falcons Did Not Draft Kyle Pitts Fourth Overall As A Blocker. He’s great at it, sure, but that’s not why he’s here.
So why in the world is that how he’s being featured in the offense two games in? Pitts has received a paltry 10 targets through two games, catching four of them for 38 yards. That is an unjustifiable lack of production from one of the focal points of the offense and a future cornerstone of the team.
Whether it’s Arthur Smith giving curmudgeonly responses about ‘fantasy football’ and failing to scheme Kyle Pitts or simply the limits of Marcus Mariota’s game as a passer, the conclusion remains the same: Get Kyle Pitts the football. By any means necessary.
Kyle Pitts is going to face double teams — he’s likely to have two shadows his entire career. You made him the highest drafted tight end in history because he has the ability to beat them. He needs to be involved, immediately.