The Falcons ended their streak of season-opening losses with a 24-10 win over the Panthers, but it was far from pretty.
If it weren’t for Jessie Bates III, who recorded two interceptions and a forced fumble, Atlanta would’ve been in a dogfight and potentially 0-1. Carolina isn’t some world-beater, so there are certainly some things to clean up for the Dirty Birds.
The offense wasn’t very effective in the first half. Some of that lands at Desmond Ridder’s feet, while Arthur Smith deserves a share of the blame. The offensive line was also a factor in the group’s underwhelming start.
Falcons fans aren’t happy with the entire situation, especially with the lack of targets for two top ten picks. Kyle Pitts and Drake London combined for just four targets, and London didn’t even record a reception.
When you win, you get the benefit of the doubt; however, if the Falcons drop a few games and those two guys are still not featured in the offense, Smith will have to answer some very difficult questions. Winning is a cure-all, though.
Following the game, a reporter pointed out that London had fewer catches than Desmond Ridder, who hauled in a batted pass in the first quarter, which Atlanta’s head coach didn’t take too fondly after a two-touchdown victory.
“Let the fantasy guys worry about that,” he said. “We’ve got to clean some things up. We can all be better in our spacing, and targets is the most misunderstood thing in the National Football League. There’s progressions, there’s spacing, if somebody underneath is not right, that’s the stuff where I’m a little irritated as a coach. We had to fix it at halftime. That’s on me. That’s on everybody.”
There are things they can clean up, but it was a fair question. An 8th overall pick not recording a single reception isn’t ideal. As I said before, though, when you win, you get grace. I’m sure Drake London prefers to win over a gaudy stat line and a loss but eventually it’ll get stale. For now, he doesn’t care, according to his head coach.
“We don’t care. Drake London doesn’t care. All we care about is 1-0. We have a lot of work — and that has to improve because it’s not going to sustain every week. Every week is its own entity. We don’t care about the stats. We care about winning,” Smith continued.
Receivers are generally of the dramatic variety. It doesn’t seem like Drake London is like that, and maybe that’s why the Falcons drafted him. But the question remains: Why did you draft a tight end and wideout with back-to-back top ten selections if you weren’t going to feed them targets?
For now, Arthur Smith doesn’t have to answer those questions. If the losses start piling up, he’ll no longer have that luxury.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire