That could have gone better. All the hope and optimism we had for this new look Falcons side disappeared around halfway through the second quarter, and didn’t bother returning at any point. It was the sort of listless, lifeless performance that would, and probably should, see expectations for the Falcons 2021 completely reset. It was that bad.
Away from the first two drives, the Falcons didn’t get into Eagles territory in a meaningful way. I’m not going o go back and watch it. I won’t subject myself to that. But I’m not sure the Falcons’ offense actually managed to get past the 50-yard line at all. Some of that comes from the play-caller, absolutely. There were some strange, very conservative, calls on 3rd down that felt like they admitted defeat early. A lot of that comes from the guys upfront. Everyone watching on Sunday could see that’s where the Falcons’ offensive woes stemmed.
Offensive line? Offensive to watch
The Falcons’ offensive line in week one consisted of three first-rounders, and two third-rounders. The Falcons have invested in the offensive line, clearly. That’s five early-round picks struggling to keep their quarterback in place. The reality of the situation, however, is that it was the first time that combination of players had ever played together. A unit that replies on chemistry more than any other in a team, to have that, against that front, was always going to end in tears.
A word, then, on Jalen Mayfield who has become Falcons Twitter’s favourite punching bag. Mayfield, more than anyone, needed help. Some of that would have come from playing with those four other players at least once in pre-season, but a lot of that should have come from some help in chips and double-teams, which simply didn’t come. Mayfield ended the afternoon with a pass protection rating of 1.4 from PFF. That’s out of 100, by the way. When all’s said and done, the kid was set up to fail. He’ll be better, but you have to seriously question why he was in that situation to begin with.
The lack of talent on defense is well documented, and they too had some issues early. But they bounced back well. Dean Pees’ reputation as a hard and fast blitzer came to the fore, with Atlanta sending 5, 6, 7 guys after Jalen Hurts often. The issue was that Hurts was just too mobile. But they held their own. The Eagles may have scored 32 points, but the defense kept it close for longer than it had any right to be. That’s something to take into week two.
Away from the emotion of the game, when all is said, there’s a fair bit to look at as building blocks. Those first two drives, while ending in field goals, looked every bit what we know Arthur Smith to be coming away from Tennessee. The air and ground game was balanced, Calvin Ridley was getting the ball often, it was clicking. Had either, or both, of those drives ended with a touchdown, we might be looking at a completely different post-game. But they didn’t.
Can the Falcons hang with Tampa Bay in week two? We’ll evaluate that later in the week. One thing’s for certain is that the Falcons need to clean up penalties. 12 penalties to the tune of 99 yards is going to hurt anyone, but especially when your offense is looking to swing momentum somehow. This isn’t just rookie stuff, either. Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst both flagged for OPI on first down gains was a killer. Smith preached accountability over the offseason. Let’s hope that sticks.
I’ve always been of the opinion that week one is a glorified pre-season game. The extra regular-season game may ultimate prove to be a bigger help than not, if only to get these guys into gear quicker than usual. The week one loss to the Eagles was demoralizing, and I wouldn’t blame you at all for walking away until 2022. Elements of that loss can be taken and focused on, however. If they do that, the Falcons can still be a good and competitive side in 2021.