“It is a long season. There are a lot of plays to be made.” That’s what cornerback Fabian Moreau said about the Week 1 debacle against the Philadelphia Eagles. Everyone in the building for the Atlanta Falcons understands that the season is not over yet. That does not take away from the thorough thumping the Falcons took on their field. Never mind that now, it is a new week with a new opponent. And this opponent requires much more focus than the last one did. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcome the Falcons with open arms this Sunday, September 19th. After squeaking by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, the Bucs are looking to show their dominance against the freshly-beaten Falcons. If the Falcons want to stand a chance against the Super Bowl champs, the offense must establish control of the game.
The Falcons Offense Has to Take Control vs. Bucs
The Falcons offense showed last week that they run the ball as well as anybody else in the league. They attacked the Eagles defense with a heavy dose of the run game early using the tandem of Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson. This week will be a real test for the run game as the Bucs allowed just 60 yards total to the Dallas Cowboys last week. The Falcons gained 86 in the first quarter alone.
For the Falcons to give the Bucs a run for their money, they must keep Tom Brady off the field. The Falcons did not do this last week, going 4/17 (23.53%) on third and fourth-down conversions. Arthur Smith’s offense relies on the balance of run and pass to keep the defense on their toes. Arthur Smith’s conservative nature to start the game last week was a crutch. This week, that conservatism may be Atlanta’s only hope.
No More Senseless Penalties
The Falcons offense showed a lack of rhythm last week that ultimately led to their demise against Philly. If Atlanta wants to establish the control necessary to win, they cannot commit senseless penalties. The Falcons had the third most penalty yards last week, 12 of them for 99 yards. The only bright spot is that in second are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which committed 11 for 106 yards.
The difference is that the Bucs have the talent and continuity to overcome mistakes like that. The Falcons are not afforded that same leeway due to their limited time on the field and few game-time reps. Atlanta will need to allow Tampa Bay to make their mistakes and reap the benefits of said mistakes. Not to say that the Falcons need a perfect game, but they will need a couple of breaks to go their way.
Falcons Offense Needs to Control the Air
The debut of Arthur Smith’s offense did not go as planned. Smith made his disgust with the performance well-known with his opening comments in his post-game presser. This off-season, the Atlanta Falcons took a tight end with otherworldly talent with the fourth overall pick. But when Kyle Pitts finally hit the field, he did not make much of a difference. Pitts had eight targets and only four catches for 31 yards to show for it. The other weapon that the Falcons needed to get going was the new number-one option, Calvin Ridley. Ridley also had eight targets but only was able to haul in five of those for 51 yards.
The Tampa Bay secondary allowed 403 yards through the air last week against the Cowboys. The weapons in Dallas are well-documented, but so are the ones in Atlanta if they can get going. One thing that the Cowboys have that the Falcons do not have is a reliable offensive line.
There was no way that the Falcons offensive line would get a pass after their performance Sunday. According to PFF, the Cowboys had the fourth-best offensive line in all of football. The Falcons? 28th. Fifth worst in the NFL. If it wasn’t for the early run blocking reps, that ranking could have been much worse. If the Falcons offense wants any hope in seizing control of this game, they must have some semblance of it in the trenches.
29-17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In this article, there has been a lot of talk about the offense. That’s because there’s no point in discussing the defense against that Bucs offense. The Bucs are going to score. That is a given. The question becomes, how much time will the Bucs have? The Falcons showed a willingness to stop drives when necessary last week, stalling six of Philly’s first nine drives without a touchdown. Two of those touchdown drives came after three-and-out drives for the Falcons offense. Those same three-and-out drives cannot happen this week. The Falcons need to keep this dangerous Tampa Bay offense off the field.
At this very moment, it does not look like the Falcons offense will establish the control necessary against the Bucs. The front four of the Eagles gave the Atlanta Falcons offensive line fits throughout the game. So much so that the Eagles were able to consistently drop seven into coverage and fill up all passing lanes for Matt Ryan and company. Expect the same for this week as Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Shaquil Barrett look to terrorize Matt Ryan all game long.
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