Regardless of their record, it’s always going to be a battle facing the New York Jets. The glaring flaws on their roster shouldn’t overshadow a stellar defense with playmakers across all three levels of their defense. It’s a unit that has brought out the worst in Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Jalen Hurts. Combine their ferociousness with horrendous weather conditions on a rainy, windy Sunday afternoon, and the Falcons knew they were going to be in for a grueling battle.
Bijan Robinson was at the centerpiece of their game plan or Atlanta Falcons. The coaching staff was going to be reliant on running the ball, given the matchup and environment. While the rookie sensation was largely contained, he found ways to be productive and keep drives moving. That involves contributing as a pass catcher, which hasn’t been smooth for Robinson at times in his rookie year.
Until last week against the Saints, there have been many occasions where Desmond Ridder and the young back haven’t been on the same page. They have been more in sync to convert third downs and exploit mismatches in the past two games. Robinson credits Ridder for his desire to continuously work on building their rapport to help the offense become more efficient.
“We work on getting better all the time,” Robinson stated. “Desmond will say let’s get some work in after practice. We focus on getting our timing down better. I also aim to improve on my routes. Most importantly, we find the connection that we need. We know how passes to all the running backs can translate into explosive plays. It can be a check down, crossing route, or something more vertical.”
“We know how big the possibilities are of what we can do. All the running backs put the work in. We have to be reliable outlets and playmakers for our quarterback. That means we find ways to win against corners and safeties. It’s not just linebackers. There’s a strong trust knowing we can win on any play.”
Drake London faced even stiffer obstacles in trying to be productive against a stellar Jets defense. The dynamic second-year receiver was limited to one catch on five targets. Arthur Smith looked to get him the ball on deep shots off play action, but there weren’t any openings downfield.
London didn’t lose his composure. He continued to contribute in various ways by blocking in the run game and creating openings for his teammates in the passing game. He also embraced being able to square off against one of the best cornerbacks in the league, Sauce Gardner. That experience, along with earning a hard-fought victory, made the game satisfying for him despite the limited opportunities.
“Always love going against the best players,” London said with a big smile. “That’s what it’s about as an athlete. Obviously, Sauce (Gardner) is one of the best in the league. You see what he does every week. I would love all the opportunities to showcase what I can do against him. The bad weather affected what we could do. We knew it was going to be a different type of game. Not too many passes were going to be dialed up. I tried to affect the game as much as I possibly could.”
“The competitor in me absolutely wants the ball. Everyone wants their time at some point. It comes down to understanding how the game is going. You can’t get frustrated by it. We got the win. We are all about stacking these wins right now. If the ball isn’t coming to me as much when we win, I have to be understanding. Our team is focused on winning.”
London was in high spirits as he enjoyed a (delicious, I had one too) chicken sandwich in the locker room. Not even D.J. Reed’s vicious hit bothered him. He would rather focus on the biggest positives from the win, like Kyle Pitts’ strong performance. Seeing him make timely plays on third down and be more featured on the outside was exciting for the entire team. London knows how big of a difference he makes as an all-around weapon.
“This was his week to show out,” London said. “He is the one who drove us down the field when we scored. Those third-down conversions were huge. I’m so happy to see him do his thing. We all know how special he is.”
Pitts wasn’t the only tight end to significantly impact the game. MyCole Pruitt had his shining moment on a tremendous 20-yard diving touchdown grab. It proved to be the Falcons’ longest pass play of the game. Robinson wanted to show the resilient tight end some love for everything he does for the team. Pruitt is the most dependable blocking tight end on the team. It’s no secret how much the coaching staff values him. The players share that same sentiment.
“It was great to see Pruitt score,” Robinson told me. “He does a lot of the dirty work. He always looks to contribute wherever he can. Definitely one of the hardest workers on the team. He’s someone we go to as a veteran in the locker room. We want to see everyone score at some point. That moment was a big opportunity for us to score. It was going to be a struggle for us at times, but seeing Pruitt dive to score his first one of the year was awesome.”
Robinson continued sharing praise after a long, exhausting game. He was very complimentary of the Jets’ fearsome linebacker tandem, C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams. They were flying all over the field to make key stops. Getting past them was always going to be a tall order for the running game, and Robinson admitted the difficulties in facing them while opening up about being friends with Williams.
“Those two guys are great,” Robinson declared. “I have so much respect for them as linebackers. I know Quincy well. He is with Nicole Lynn, so we have the same agent. To see him come up has been inspiring. He’s sacrificed a lot to get where he’s at. I love going up against the best, so I came into this game extra excited. That linebacker duo is special. They’re one of the biggest reasons why that defense is so good. We tried to find openings against them, but they were ready for everything. Huge credit to them for how they both competed.”
The offense knows better days are ahead. They have a strong belief in each other to evolve and prepare to beat the best teams. London loves how strong-minded and determined the team is by striving to improve in all aspects. They can be encouraged by the current winning streak but remain far from satisfied. That starts at the top, as general manager Terry Fontenot can be heard yelling let’s go to the playoffs. London knows what he needs to do to help Atlanta get there.
“Any opportunity I get with the ball, I embrace it and make things happen with my abilities,” London said. “That’s my mindset. Everyone should want to be a complete all-around player. That’s how you position yourself to be the best. If I got to catch more short-yardage passes to get busy, then that’s what I’m going to do to be the best and help us win games. I’m driven. I’m working every day to evolve as a player. That’s something we collectively take pride in to take that step in becoming a playoff team.”