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Falcons snap counts from a loss in the desert

The Falcons drop their third straight game, this time to the Cardinals. What do the snap counts tell us?

NFL: OCT 29 Falcons at Titans Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I could kick this off with a long-winded note about the Atlanta Falcons losing, but with each passing week, that gets more and more depressing. Let’s just jump right into the snap counts for this loss against the Arizona Cardinals.


Jake Matthews: 71

Matthew Bergeron: 71

Drew Dalman: 71

Chris Lindstrom: 71

Kaleb McGary: 71

Drake London: 55

Bijan Robinson: 53

Kyle Pitts: 50

Taylor Heinicke: 49

Jonnu Smith: 31

MyCole Pruitt: 30

KhaDarel Hodge: 28

Van Jefferson: 26

Cordarrelle Patterson: 22

Desmond Ridder: 22

Keith Smith: 21

Tyler Allgeier: 19

Scotty Miller: 15

John FitzPatrick: 9

The Falcons finally just said “okay, let’s roll out our three best players on offense as often as possible” and repeated the benefits. Robinson managed just over half of Atlanta’s rushing yards and scored one of their three touchdowns, with London and Pitts combining to assemble over two-thirds of the team’s passing yards and Robinson chipping in 11 of his own. This was an unusually anemic day through the air even by Atlanta’s standards, but on the average day when the Falcons don’t come with the most timid plan of the year, leaning on the team’s corps of playmakers will pay dividends.

The unfortunate injury to Heinicke came on a hell of a scramble to nearly pick up a first day, and that meant he gave way to Ridder. The team is not going to juggle quarterbacks going forward—please, let them not do that—so this should be the last time we see split snaps unless injury pops back up. My hunch is that they’re going back to Ridder.

The picture at receiver outside of London is an absolute muddle. Miller has done fine work in the red zone of late but has zero rapport with Ridder, a player the Falcons may return to, and Hodge is a boom-or-bust option for the passing game. Jefferson, meanwhile, has been somewhat useless for this offense (which is not entirely his fault) thus far in 2023, as he didn’t catch his sole target in this game and has gone just 1-for-8 on third down targets thus far. Atlanta’s decision to roll with Mack Hollins and a motley crew behind London has not paid dividends thus far, and the trade for Jefferson has failed to pan out. The only good note here is that Jonnu Smith is essentially the team’s third wide receiver, and he won’t be that quiet most weeks.

The drop in playing time that surprised me was Allgeier’s, as he went from being frequently utilized last week to third in snaps at running back behind Patterson. Patterson did get a little more run as a receiver in this one, which helps to explain that, but I doubt we’ll see a nearly three-to-one split in snaps for Robinson and Allgeier most weeks even if Robinson can and should continue to out-touch Allgeier.

We also got our John FitzPatrick sighting on offense. With MyCole Pruitt seemingly with a strangehold on that third tight end role, we might not see much more of him the rest of the way.


Nate Landman: 65

Jeff Okudah: 65

A.J. Terrell: 65

Jessie Bates: 65

Kaden Elliss: 64

Richie Grant: 61

Bud Dupree: 42

Calais Campbell: 40

Kentavius Street: 36

Albert Huggins: 34

Clark Phillips: 30

Lorenzo Carter: 27

Ta’Quon Graham: 24

Zach Harrison: 24

Timothy Horne: 23

Arnold Ebiketie: 21

Mike Hughes: 18

DeMarcco Hellams: 11

This was a nightmare game for the pass rush. Street didn’t follow up a strong first effort with another great game, and Campbell may have had his worst game as a Falcon in this one. While Graham was actually pretty damn good to these eyes and Horne and Huggins were at least solid, the lack of consistent push up front gave Kyler Murray an agonizing amount of time to work and set up some of the completions that killed Atlanta, especially to tight end Trey McBride. That wasn’t helped by quiet days from Carter, Dupree, and maybe especially Ebiketie, who also inexplicably enabled Murray’s big run near the end of the game. The Falcons’ reasoning for wanting to trade for Montez Sweat isn’t difficult to figure out; they badly need David Onyemata back for the havoc he can wreak.

Fortunately, the Falcons elected to give us quite a bit of Clark Phillips, who was crisped on a would-be touchdown Hollywood Brown simply missed, but otherwise was aggressive and impactful. Pro Football Focus credited him with just one catch allowed on four targets—again, one of those you’d be hard-pressed to credit him for—and he was a useful defender against the run. For a young player making his season debut on defense, that was a pretty good afternoon.

Grant, meanwhile, had a nightmare day. PFF had him allowing all four targets thrown to his man to be caught for 78 yards, which was the most any defender allowed by a full 30 yards, and he also missed a pair of tackles. It has been an up-and-down season for Grant, but I can’t see him ceding significant work to DeMarcco Hellams just yet, no matter how much the Falcons like the rookie safety. Grant should bounce back given the lack of high-end tight ends left on the docket, but unfortunately the specter of getting burned by Taysom Hill is still there.

Special teams

Andre Smith Jr.: 23

Micah Abernathy: 23

Tre Flowers: 23

DeAngelo Malone: 23

KhaDarel Hodge: 17

Keith Smith: 17

Bradley Pinion: 12

Frank Darby: 12

Lorenzo Carter: 10

John FitzPatrick: 10

DeMarcco Hellams: 9

Richie Grant: 8

Calais Campbell: 8

Clark Phillips: 8

Scotty Miller: 8

Nate Landman: 7

Liam McCullough: 7

MyCole Pruitt: 6

Cordarrelle Patterson: 6

Ta’Quon Graham: 5

Mike Hughes: 5

Kentavius Street: 4

Albert Huggins: 4

Arnold Ebiketie: 3

Jake Matthews: 3

Matthew Bergeron: 3

Chris Lindstrom: 3

Kaleb McGary: 3

Storm Norton: 3

Kyle Hinton: 3

Ryan Neuzil: 3

Younghoe Koo: 3

Zach Harrison: 1

Bijan Robinson: 1

Timothy Horne: 1

Tyler Allgeier: 1

The nightmare return from Greg Dortch was almost unbelievable, but is another blemish in an up-and-down year for special teams. Malone actually did a terrific job flying down the field and tracking Dortch, but he takes a bad angle, misses a tackle, and then somehow misses another tackle a moment later. Right after that first miss, Dortch gets hit by both Lorenzo Carter and Liam McCullough, but manages to stay on his feet and makes Andre Smith badly miss, rumbling a long way before DeMarcco Hellams finally wrestles him down with a little assist from a tumbling Bradley Pinion. The misses were ugly and the Falcons continue to have problems corralling quality returners.

The also shook things up a bit, giving Robinson a punt return that he squeezed eight yards out of. With no Avery Williams and with Hughes seemingly in the doghouse, the Falcons may mix and match on punt returns the rest of the way with Patterson continuing to field kicks.