The first loss of the season was an ugly one for the Atlanta Falcons. Detroit looked prepared for everything the offense wanted to do and played with a degree of violence that far surpassed the visiting team.
There’s a great early season lesson here for the Falcons if they choose to take it, but we’ll have to wait another week for any indication of that. What you won’t have to wait a week for is the stock watch after a listless 20-6 performance against a team that is in many ways a peer for Atlanta.
This dude has been an absolute force to start the season. He’s been the Batman to Grady Jarrett’s Batman, and he continued his great start on Sunday. Onyemata plugged the middle of Atlanta’s defense and forced Detroit to attack the perimeter. He also applied consistent pressure on Jared Goff when the Lions dropped back to pass.
Onyemata is simply a consistently good NFL player, and he’s already making a big impact for Atlanta.
After nabbing his third interception of the season against Detroit, Bates is tied for the league lead in that category and he’s one away from matching his career-best mark. The interceptions have largely been a reflection of Bates’s instincts on the back end, and he’s already proven to be a key communicator and leader from the safety position.
Bates also led all Falcons defenders with 11 tackles. Bates didn’t come to the Falcons cheaply, but he’s been worth every penny.
Sure, let’s go three-for-three with newcomers here. Ellis had a solid game in Week 2 against Green Bay, and he seemed to play with greater energy than most of the Atlanta defenders not on this list.
Elliss finished just behind Bates with 10 tackles, and both he and Andersen seemed to hit their gaps in the run game more consistently and effectively.
Kaden Elliss— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 24, 2023
FOX | NFL+ pic.twitter.com/aQWiR359k0
Honestly, all three of these spots could go to an individual lineman and there would still be grumbling about someone I excluded. So, let’s just lump the whole unit in here together and say WOOF.
From Jake Matthews on the left side to Kaleb McGary on the right, this was a bad day for everyone. The obvious and glaring stat is the seven sacks allowed, but I think the 2.2 yards per rush attempt is equally telling. Detroit’s defensive line dominated this unit in every facet, and all parties need to work to make things right.
On the one hand, it was Ridder’s first road start of the season and in a very hostile environment. On the other, this was not a good performance by the second-year quarterback. I actually think Ridder settled into the game fairly quickly by his standards – deep miss to Kyle Pitts aside – but he faded down the stretch when Atlanta fell further behind. I’m sure getting lit up like a Christmas tree play after play didn’t help matters.
However, he paid that misfortune forward by leaving his receivers vulnerable with off-target passes. What’s more concerning, though, is that teams can make the Falcons meticulously move the ball downfield with long drives, and I don’t know if Ridder is consistent enough right now to do that.
In his return from injury, Jeff Okudah carved out a third-down role in the secondary and figures to eat into Flowers’s role even further as he makes his way back. While Flowers hasn’t been outright horrible, he hasn’t done enough with the opportunity to warrant keeping him out there if Okudah plays to his standard.
It’s always foolhardy to assume responsibility without knowing the call, but Flowers at least had a hand in the busted coverage that led to Sam La Porta’s wide-open touchdown reception on Sunday.