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Falcons vs. Titans: Hat tips & head-scratchers

A quarterback controversy brewing?

Atlanta Falcons v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Falcons were embarrassed by a rookie quarterback on Sunday, a game where their starting quarterback was replaced and outplayed by his backup and boneheaded mistakes consistently cost them field position.

On those happy notes, here’s Hat tips & head-scratchers from Sunday’s loss to the Titans. \

Hat tips

Sweet relief

Backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke came on in quarterback Desmond Ridder’s stead in the second half, and would fill in for him nicely for the remainder of the game. While the offensive line did Ridder no favors on Sunday, Heinicke was able to navigate the pocket and get the ball out with subpar protection — and lead the Falcons on the straight scoring drives in the third quarter.

Heinicke gave the Falcons a shot to comeback against the Titans, completing 12 of 21 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. Arthur Smith’s postgame comments tossed some cold water on the prospect of Heinicke as the starter moving forward, but he showed on Sunday that he’s more than capable of helming the Atlanta offense.


Unnecessary trickeration

Coach Arthur Smith has a habit of getting a bit too cute with playcalling in important situations, and that unfortunate kink made an appearance during the Falcons’ first possession. On second down in the red zone, Smith ostensibly burned the down by opting for a trick pass play by tight end Jonnu Smith to tight end MyCole Pruitt. It proved unsuccessful, and with quarterback Desmond Ridder being sacked on the subsequent down, the Falcons were forced to settle for a field goal.

Let’s just take that one out of the playbook.

Roasted secondary

The non-call on wide receiver Deandre Hopkins’ clear OPI in the first quarter aside, Atlanta’s passing defense was atrocious against the Titans. It allowed 238 yards and four touchdowns to quarterback Will Levis in his first NFL start, regularly giving up chunk plays downfield.

It was not a banner day for the Falcons’ secondary, and it will face another rookie starter next week in Minnesota’s Jaren Hall. Gulp.

Field position

I’ve got no clue what was going through returner Mike Hughes’ head on Sunday, but he did the Falcons no favors on special teams. Hughes inexplicably fielded a punt at the one-yard line, and later called a fair catch at the seven-yard line. Atlanta struggled with field position all afternoon, with no help provided by its special teams unit who seemed to toss logic and reason out the window on punts and kicks.