Pretty difficult to mince words on Sunday’s performance offensively; it was ugly. Watching the film didn’t make it better. In all honesty, if we plan to make the playoffs, there will need to be drastic improvement in the passing game.
During the offseason, the passing game was the biggest question mark for the offense. There were also questions brought up of Ridder’s ability to connect downfield accurately, and the player he could be. The verdict was out on Ridder coming in and still is, but Sunday’s performance darkened future possibilities a little bit.
Yes, it’s week 3, and I still believe Ridder can improve, but his PFF grade has dropped each game on the field this season. The eye test also tells you there’s no denying that Sunday's performance will cut it. If Atlanta expects to be a playoff team, you’re going to need to hang with teams that have 0 concerns about throwing the ball. (San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Minnesota).
Arthur Smith himself acknowledged the bad performance Sunday in his post-game press conference: “Too many negative plays on early downs, which led to a lot of ugly offensive football.” Smith said.
Desmond Ridder went 21-38 for 201 yards, 0 TD’s 0 INT’s. The offensive line & quarterback combined to give up 7 sacks, for a loss of 62 yards total. The box score stats never tell the whole story, though. If you watched that game Sunday, it looked like absolutely nothing was in sync.
“We never got in a rhythm, and a lot of it was on early downs,” Arthur Smith said when asked about the offense on Sunday. It was something easily seen by every Falcons fan watching the game.
There was also a larger amount of reliance on the passing game than expected. Former 2x All-Pro Falcon John Abraham brought an interesting perspective to the game plan Sunday.
“I thought they should’ve run the ball” John Abraham mentioned on 11 Alive. “You’re a running team, use your best weapon.” This takeaway mirrored my thought process as well. The typically productive combination of Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgier rushed only 17 times for 48 yards.
“Now, being a [former] player, hours after the game’s over with, I thought about it. Maybe they’re trying to get as many reps for him as a passer, as they can see. It’s only the 3rd game of the year, you’re 2-0, and everybody’s excited, but how excited are you about your passing game?” Abraham hypothesized.
When a former 5x Pro-Bowler speaks, I listen. He’s been in those locker rooms, and meeting rooms, he knows more than any casual fan could fathom about the inner workings of an NFL team. Stepping back and evaluating, it also makes sense.
“Get [figuring out your passing game] out the way now, we’re going to London,” Abraham said. “At the moment, we don’t know what our passing game looks like. We’re going against Jacksonville, we might want to pass a little more there to see what you can do. You don’t want to be 15 weeks into the season and realize you can’t throw the ball 10 yards.”
The idea makes a ton of sense. See what you have in Ridder. Put the pressure on him in the game to see how he will respond. Now, with it not being something it seems like the entire team was ready for, the execution of that idea looked bad.
Arthur Smith, speaking to the media again on Monday, alluded to this being the idea. “We dropped back more than we had in a while, and we need to. My frustration is, the run game is not gonna be great every week. But if you’re not getting the counters off the run game, and getting those going, whether that’s in the play action, the screens, or the movement passes, that does make you one dimensional.”
Detroit didn’t force us to be a one-dimensional team on Sunday. We tried to give them something different, to see what we had in our passing game. It didn’t look good. It in turn made us one-dimensional (outside of great plays by Brian Branch). We will get another look at the same sort of game flow this Sunday in London. Hopefully, there’s an improvement that we see from Ridder and company.