In lieu of Patterson, run game, defense seal Atlanta Falcons win
By Joe Carlino
After surviving a close game with the Seahawks to earn their first win of the season, the Atlanta Falcons returned home to face the Cleveland Browns. Most notably, this featured the team who ended up the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes winner, yet had to start Jacoby Brissett in his place.
This game featured two of the league’s top rushing attacks through the first three weeks, led by Nick Chubb for the Browns and Cordarrelle Patterson for the Falcons (302). While Chubb was healthy and hungry to play in his home state again, the state of Patterson’s knee was a concern throughout the week.
Needless to say, the Falcons saw the writing on the walls for the reigning Player of the Week and “Angry Runs” winner, calling up Caleb Huntley from the practice squad and running four backs on the day, giving Patterson a sort of “pitch count” and limiting his game.
Thanks to the defense, the gamble paid off.
In an apropos showing of the aforementioned rushing attacks, despite giving Chubb over 100 yards and a score in his return, the Falcon’s defense managed to do what they did last week: get a stop in the fourth quarter and secure not only their second win of the season, 23-20, but also secure the first winning streak for the team since the 2020 season.
Atlanta managed to win this game despite losing the total yardage battle (403-333), passing yards (226-131), and time of possession (35:44-24:16). They also converted 33% of their third down attempts (3/9) while Cleveland converted 36% (5/14). A pretty good showing on both sides to force a good amount of special teams play.
The Falcons managed to do a rare defensive goal-line stand on the Browns’ opening drive, and from there, Mariota led the team into Younghoe Koo range. A defensive turnover by virtue of Jaylinn Hawkins’ helmet led to another staple: “Scoredarrelle” Patterson scampering for a 13-yard touchdown.
Despite this, Cleveland wouldn’t go quietly, as Brissett led a 16-play drive that took up half of the second quarter (Cleveland actually had the ball for all but 1:11 of this quarter) and a 13-play drive that stalled and forced a field goal to go into the half tied.
This is where the Falcons’ offense needed to get jumpstarted, but unfortunately, Atlanta saw three consecutive three-and-outs dating back to the second quarter (minus the kneel-down) and Mariota had his seventh giveaway of the season, behind only Matt Ryan (that name sounds familiar). Despite this, the defense held up and forced a field goal.
After the interception, the Falcons decided to essentially abandon the passing attack for the remainder of the contest. It’s like the old saying goes: “Run it down their throats!” And run it, they did, as Huntley ran five consecutive times for 38 yards, then Allgeier ran it twice for 21 yards, and Huntley finished off the final 16 on three more carries, giving Atlanta the lead again.
In total, the Falcons ran 14 consecutive runs following the Mariota interception, totaling 145 yards before a Mariota fumble (and recovery) led to Pitts lining up in the backfield for an incomplete pass (which maybe Atlanta could put him at tailback for a play or two?)
However, what really set the tone for Atlanta? Their resiliency. That’s essentially been the mindset these first four games for the second-youngest squad in the league.
Kyle Pitts only receiving one 20-yard catch for the game? No problem (for this week).
Drake London receiving a 15-yard facemask (which also was the only penalty the Falcons had all day)? Child’s play.
Is AJ Terrell starting the year off rough but locking down two top receivers in consecutive weeks? What we already knew.
Marcus Mariota throws another interception (on a 50-50 ball, don’t say anything different) and has a bad snap? Sadly, a constant in the first quarter of the year.
That said, it all comes back to that one word: “resiliency”. In previous years, Falcons teams and the fans would always go through this same cycle: flying high, good on-field performance, the game is about to be won, something happens, team loses, fans are upset, and the cycle resets.
Not this squad. This squad should be 3-1 (key word is should; the Saints loss was a complete team failure), but that’s the mantle of the NFL. Games come and go, as do the players. To win the close games against teams that are projected to be playing games in January to reach Arizona in February? Those are huge for confidence building.
Atlanta’s already reached their “projected” win total by defeating a game Browns squad. Next up on the ledger? A trip down I-85 and I-75 to Raymond James Stadium. The destination? Tampa Bay.
The matchup? Tom Brady. With his complement of receivers. Most notably, former Falcons great Julio Jones and last year’s darling receiver, Russell Gage.
The journey to a three-game win streak and moving past .500 is getting its toughest test to date. It’s up to the Falcons players and coaches to study hard if they want to pass.