This was a bad loss for Arthur Smith and the Atlanta Falcons, they simply blew it even though they had numerous chances to seal it, no way around it.
Not only that but Atlanta’s head coach has continued to show that he is simply not ready to lead an NFL team quite yet. It is little decisions that have costed this team in the early days of a new regime.
Arthur Smith continues to make awful decisions for the Atlanta Falcons
Week one garnered a lot of excitement for Falcons—a new regime meant there was new hope, but the excitement quickly dissipated as the team looked like they had just started training camp and were not ready for an NFL season.
Smith was conservative in his coaching debut, especially right before halftime when he ran the ball instead of trying to drive down the field and score. Instead, the Eagles scored due to his poor decisions.
Week two opened up about as ugly as possible. Tom Brady carved right through the Falcons defense early on. Arthur Smith elected to punt the ball on a fourth-and-one near midfield but followed it up later by calling a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-two.
It was simply unexplainable, why would you decide to call a play that generally only gets you one yard when you need two yards, but not call it when you need one yard?
In New York, it was a little cleaner, which unsurprisingly ended up in Smith’s first career win. It started to feel like he was starting to settle in with who he wanted to be as a coach.
It did not take long for that to come to a screeching halt. The Falcons head coach’s decisions in week four might have been the worst he has had.
Starting off the game, it seemed like Arthur Smith finally started to understand that this team was worthy of calling deep shots as Cordarrelle Patterson caught a long pass resulting in a touchdown.
The game progressed on with Atlanta’s head coach being aggressive, continually calling intermediate to deep passes, a couple resulting in pass interference calls on Washington. In addition to that, he called a deep shot on third-and-two that ended up being incomplete. Atlanta then went for it on fourth down and it ended with a roughing the passer penalty on Washington giving the Falcons a first down.
The aggressiveness was consistent, at least for most of the game.
On a quick side note, on a kickoff earlier in the game, punter Cameron Nizialek booted the ball into the endzone but looked to have pulled a hamstring, resulting in him being ruled out for the rest of the game.
Younghoe Koo was pressed into being the punter, something he obviously does not practice and it certainly showed on his first punt as he only kicked it 25-yards.
Back to the point, Washington’s offense went on to score a touchdown and was down by two, they went for the two-point conversion but failing, meaning they had to stop red-hot Matt Ryan for a chance to win the game.
The Falcons offense took the field with around three minutes left in the game, up by two points. Matt Ryan has been tossing the ball all over the field with ease, the teams’ punter has been ruled out for the game, the defense was being shredded, and the run game had been inconsistent.
There is only one choice you can make here if you are Arthur Smith—put the ball in Ryan’s hands so that you do not allow Washington’s offense to be able to get the ball back.
Instead, Arthur Smith played it as conservative as possible—which was also a huge deviation from how he had called the game up until this point.
The drive started with an outside run for negative yards, then another run for minimal yards making it a third down and long.
This was when you felt like Arthur Smith could not afford to make another conservative call but yet he did just that with a screen pass that went nowhere.
These were decisions that were made even when he took into account that he did not have his punter or a defense that had shown an ability to stop Washington.
As you know, Younghoe Koo ended up with a decent 45-yard punt, but the defense was once again shredded in the worst way possible and here we are sitting with a 1-3 record instead of a much more respectable 2-2 record.
This one lands on Arthur Smith as much as it does the defense. He made those ridiculously conservative play calls even when he evaluated all the many factors that would tell you to remain aggressive, it is simply inexcusable. He deviated from how he called the rest of the game.
At least last year Dirk Koetter had trust in Matt Ryan to throw the ball when the team needed a late-game first down. It may not have ended up any different, but at least it shows confidence and continual aggressiveness.
Arthur Smith needs to get this figured out soon or else things will get so much worse. He deserves much of the blame for the teams’ struggles to start the season.