The Atlanta Falcons did what many thought was unthinkable, and more remarkably, something that hasn’t been done by this team in years: it started off the season 2-0. Sunday’s win was particularly impressive, with the Falcons battling back from a 12-point deficit in the 4th quarter.
We learn a lot after every game, but we learn so much more positive after wins.
1. Arthur Smith’s mentality is gaining traction
Don’t take that to suggest Arthur Smith’s plans hadn’t been working. He was, after all, stuck working with the tattered remains of a roster and trying to implement a different scheme. Deferring in 2021? Regrettable choice. In 2023? Successful. Going for it on 4th down in 2022? Let me tell you that is looking a whole lot better this year. 4th quarters? Let me tell you we are seeing a very different result this year.
Some of those mentalities you want your team to be about, such as toughness, might mean you are trying to run the ball down someone’s throat...without being able to successfully do it. In 2023, this is resulting in 4th quarter comebacks and wins. I’m still waiting for all the puzzle pieces to fit, but I can start making out the picture in the puzzle.
2. Bijan Robinson is the best back in years
We still have a long way to go to know if any running back in today’s NFL is worth that 8th pick, or if Robinson ends up being the better player than the guy taken at slot 9. With that said, Robinson transitioned to the speed of the NFL almost immediately. Then he sped up faster than most defenders. You’ve certainly seen the stats but Robinson put the team on his back on the way to 23 touches for 172 yards. No distance was too far, even on 4th down.
Robinson’s Game 2 reminds me of Adrian Peterson’s Game 1: 20 touches for 163 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown catch. Just don’t check who that game was against.
Robinson already looks like one of the league’s best. He should be an offensive centerpiece for some time.
3. Right side bounceback
The right side of the offensive line bounced back after a rough Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. After an uncharacteristically poor game for Chris Lindstrom, and a...somewhat more characteristically poor game for Kaleb McGary, the right side (with notable play again by center Drew Dalman) helped set the tone for Sunday’s win.
More than just Robinson, the right side of the line helped open up running lanes for 211 rush yards against the Packers. As long as the run game is going to be this team’s offensive identity, the right side of the line will be a very important piece of this team moving forward, given that it’s loaded with capable run blockers.
4. Kyle Pitts isn’t a top target
Pitts started strong in his rookie season with Matt Ryan. Since then, there was Marcus Mariota and a season-ending injury. Even with those two limitations, there have been plenty of questions about how Kyle Pitts is used. After all, Pitts should be the most talented tight end in the league. He’s essentially a bigger, more rocked up Calvin Johnson, or your wildly athletic receiving option of choice.
While the pass game is still a work in progress, Pitts’ current usage raises plenty of questions. He has 4 catches on 8 targets for 59 yards. Compared to other tight ends, those numbers are very small. TJ Hockenson has 15 catches on 17 targets. Darren Waller has 9 receptions on 13 targets.
I don’t know what the future holds for Pitts. I don’t think he turns into a top target through the rest of 2023.
5. David Onyemata makes this defense fun
The former Saints tackle David Onyemata, despite his advanced age (30 is old?!?), has looked very good next to Grady Jarrett in Week 1. He looked like the best player on the defensive line in Week 2. I’m not here to talk the stats, or his PFF score (above the guy taken after Bijan).
More than anything, I’m enjoying his energy and attitude. You see it both on the snap... and sometimes after the whistle too.
Onyemata tapping everyone’s helmets here is absolutely everything.— Atlanta Falcons ⚫ (@ATLFalconsUK) September 18, 2023
Our spirit animal ❤️ https://t.co/eJ72dDXVhN
Onyemata is the type of defender Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff were always trying to land. There were a few success stories but so many more failures. With a bit more of that Onyemata attitude in their blood, Falcons of years past like Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley might still be here. Let’s keep this energy in 2023.