Atlanta Falcons nearly exorcise demons against champs
By Joe Carlino
After losing a game that was ripe for the taking, the Atlanta Falcons had to travel west for a date with the defending Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams were reeling after looking completely lost in a 31-10 trouncing by the current favorite Buffalo Bills, yet Vegas believed this matchup was incredibly lopsided in the champs’ favor, as evidenced by a (correctly predicted) opening line of LAR -13.5 that closed at -10.5.
And for two and a half quarters, that was completely evident before the Rams nearly exorcised the demons away from Atlanta.
In a game that the Falcons never deserved to be in, Matthew Stafford attempted to give the Falcons every chance possible to stay afloat, and the team nearly obliged. Riding the three turnovers the Rams gave (two INTs, one forced fumble), Atlanta fell behind by that score, then proceeded to very nearly erase that deficit in a furious comeback that ultimately fell short, losing 31-27 and falling to 0-2 on the season.
Stafford finished this game completing 75% of his passes (27/36) for 272 yards with three touchdowns and the two aforementioned picks. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 17/26 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions, the second of which was arguably the most backbreaking as it came with a chance to take the lead.
Elsewhere, rookie wide receiver Drake London scored the first touchdown of his career after Mykal Walker intercepted Stafford with a chance to really stamp this game with the “over” button. Casey Hayward also had a very nice interception of his own, but on the ensuing Falcons drive, Mariota had Cordarrelle Patterson open, but he bobbled the pass twice off his hand and helmet, and the Rams intercepted the ball back and scored on a teardrop pass to Kupp.
There are two glaring negatives that are coming out of Atlanta’s roster in the immediate aftermath, one on both sides of the ball. On offense, tight end Kyle Pitts is seemingly getting zero productivity from the passing game, and while Arthur Smith is technically right that real football isn’t fantasy football, teams are respecting the biggest threat on offense for the Falcons right now, and that’s Pitts. Because of that, guys like London, Damiere Byrd, Khadarel Hodge, and Olamide Zaccheaus gain more chances to spread the ball around.
On defense, however, this is brutal to mention, but AJ Terrell hasn’t been great two weeks in. Coming off a season where he was snubbed from All-Pro, snubbed from the Pro Bowl, AND left on the outside of the top 100 players from last year, in two consecutive weeks, Terrell’s given up three touchdowns already. Granted, against the Saints, those passes by Jameis Winston were just perfect throws, the one to Allen Robinson was completely ridiculous as he was caught out of position. He very nearly had an interception in the end zone on Los Angeles’s final scoring drive, but there are some eyes on him right now, and he must deliver.
Outside of these big moments, the biggest moment probably came in the third area of the game: special teams. There’s one positive and one negative in this regard for Atlanta, and the negative is where we’ll start. Younghoe Koo, who normally is pretty reliable for a score, shanked the opening drive 44-yard field goal attempt wide left; uncharacteristic for sure, but now he’s missed two consecutive attempts (granted, the previous was a 63-yarder and was blocked, but still counts against).
However, the positive was something Falcons fans of this generation are completely unaccustomed to. After the defense forced a Rams punt, rookie second-round pick Troy Andersen broke through the punt formation and beautifully blocked the punt, and Lorenzo Carter became the first Falcon in 32 years (!!!) to return the ensued blocked punt for a touchdown.
It’s easy to say the Falcons aren’t good; we all know this. But this statistic from FOX5’s Miles Garrett is pretty interesting, to say the least:
Yes, that’s not a typo. In two consecutive weeks, the Atlanta Falcons have only lost by a combined five points. This team is fighting, regardless of what any of us have to say, and that’s pretty good. Like Smith said last week, everyone was counting us out early, saying we didn’t stand a chance and were locked into a top pick in the draft.
That said, this team is special. Something is fornicating in the waters of Flowery Branch, and it’s worth drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid.
And it’ll start with Seattle next week.