After an uneventful 2021 campaign, most Atlanta Falcons fans asked for one thing: Be fun again. So set the stage. After almost three-quarters of inept play against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, the Falcons have inexplicably found themselves with the ball on the Rams 37-yard line. Down by only six points. A touchdown wins this game. After two intermediate passes to Drake London for a new set of downs and a short run by Tyler Allgeier, it is now second-down and nine. Mariota drops back. His eyes do not move from the seam. Aaron Donald, who kept relatively quiet, found himself screaming up the interior directly in the face of Mariota. Mariota decides that he has found his read and puts it in the air. The Falcons fans are on their feet. The ball is getting closer and closer to the end zone. It’s caught…by Jalen Ramsey.
You put your head down. You know how this story ends. The Falcons end up losing to 31-27, and you sit on the couch with a bag full of empty promises and broken dreams. But before you go back to sulking, remember that feeling? No, not the pit in your stomach from the first three quarters. That other feeling. The emotion when London scored his first touchdown. With the 39-yard grab from Khadarel Hodge. From the Darren Hall peanut punch that set up this drive. Yes, that feeling. That feeling of “that was…that was actually fun.” The Atlanta Falcons might actually be fun again.
The Atlanta Falcons Might Be Fun Again!
How Do They Even Make Losing Fun?
Let us go back in time. Week one of the 2022 NFL season and the New Orleans Saints are marching into town. This season will be the first since 2008 that Matt Ryan will not be starting under center for this team. The first time another quarterback has taken starting snaps for this team since Matt Schaub in 2019. Before that? Chris Redman, all the way back in 2010. Ryan has been the lifeblood of this team for so long, but now he has left us for the Indianapolis Colts and left us in the hands of Marcus Mariota.
The first 47 minutes and 19 seconds, the Falcons put on a clinic. Grady Jarrett, Arnold Ebiketie, and the entire defensive line wreaked havoc on Jameis Winston and the Saints. Winston ended the half with -2 passing yards after accounting for the four sacks caused. Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and the New Orleans run game were deemed ineffective from the get-go.
On the other side, the run-first offense that Arthur Smith has deployed, mixed with boot-action that keeps the pocket moving for Mariota, has given the Saints defensive line fits. And Cordarrelle Patterson? Well, he was being Cordarrelle Patterson.
Cordarrelle Patterson puts the team on his back, scores this TD giving the Falcons their first TD of the season! pic.twitter.com/BUbxlC70kn
— PFF ATL Falcons (@PFF_Falcons) September 11, 2022
If you take out the final 12 minutes and 41 seconds of the game, the Falcons were dominating this game. They found early success in the run game that bled into the passing game. In the second game, they found that same success too little, too late. It is starting to be okay to be optimistic about this team.
The Young Guns Just Want to Have Fun
With the young guys, we can start with Darren Hall peanut-punching the ball from the “Triple Crown Winner”, Cooper Kupp, while also recovering it after it hurt the turf. Or Richie Grant bringing versatility to the defensive secondary (which Pees should use before we try Erik Harris again). Ta’Quon Graham and rookie Arnold Ebiketie are key contributors on the defensive line. And three-year veterans Mykal Walker and A.J. Terrell are expected to infuse leadership in their respective rooms. While A.J. has 11-year veteran Casey Hayward and Walker has 5-year veteran Rashaan Evans to learn from, they will still look to lead by example with their play. Walker has held up his end of the bargain, doing things that sometimes will not show up in the stat sheet and also those things that do. Terrell has had a rougher start, but I do not expect that to be the norm for him.
Darren Hall said this isn't over.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 18, 2022
On offense, there is the two-headed monster that is Drake London and Kyle Pitts. Interchangeable pieces on what could be a masterpiece for Arthur Smith. His usage of the two has been one-sided this season in favor of London, but Smith has spoken about getting Pitts more targets throughout the season. Tyler Allgeier has started to get more carries and is pushing piles and driving his legs as much as he can, especially when he is averaging only 1.4 yards before contact per carry.
"The ball will find him. He's going to break out again. We're going to win because of it."
Arthur Smith spoke today — at length — about Kyle Pitts, and got into some detail about what defenses are doing to keep the ball from going Pitts' way (beyond straight double teams). pic.twitter.com/Hns1rtm0iD
— Justin Felder (@Justin_FOX5) September 21, 2022
There is a lot to be excited about with this abundance of young talent that play hard for Arthur Smith, Dean Pees, and company. It looks like it has the potential to be a lot of fun for years to come.
How Can The Atlanta Falcons Be More Fun?
Okay, so we have established that the Atlanta Falcons are, in fact, fun again. But there is one problem: They have not won a game yet. Being fun is great and all, but it has to be effective at some point.
Not to fear, the Falcons take on a Geno Smith-led Seattle Seahawks team on Sunday. While the receiver tandem of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are not the slump-busters you would want for a struggling A.J. Terrell, the rest of the roster does not pose as much of a threat. According to Football Outsiders, they are 26th in overall DVOA so far. And while Geno Smith leads the league in completion percentage, he also is last in the league in air yards. Not very fun. But Pete Caroll is looking to “let Geno cook” (I wonder how long it took for him to think of that one) and essentially let him loose against the Falcons defense.
As far as the Seahawks defense, they are dead-last in dropback EPA, opening up a chance for Marcus Mariota and this Falcons offense to cook up something against a subpar (25th in Defensive DVOA) Seahawks defense. Mariota is on thin ice with Ridder sitting on the bench, pacing back and forth, waiting for his chance. A great game at Lumen Field would hold off the Ridder rallying cries for a few more weeks. Or, at least until it stops being fun again.
Seahawks and Falcons about to have the weirdest football game in NFL history next week and I cannot wait.
— Steve (@YinzerHawks) September 18, 2022