Overall, the Falcons offense has been quite underwhelming. All things take time, especially meshing a new offensive system with a veteran quarterback and terrible offensive line. Still, Arthur Smith was brought in to figure these exact dilemmas out as he was heralded for his offensive prowess. Atlanta’s offensive personnel may be so bad that not even the most remarkable offensive mind — Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, Andy Reid, Kyle Shanahan, or Sean McVay (take your pick) — would be able to get something out of this group.
Through three weeks, the Falcons rank near last in every significant stat. Smith’s group is 29th in points per game (16), 27th in total yards per game (301.3), and 25th in third-down conversion rate (33.33%). Atlanta also ranks 27th in net yards gained per pass attempt (5.2) and 29th in scoring percentage (25.7% of offensive drives end with score).
The Falcons offense doesn’t have any standout players, given Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, and Kyle Pitts have all started slow. Arthur Smith hasn’t quite figured out how best to utilize his top weapons consistently, but he has done a few good things with this group. The Falcons offense ranks 17th in red-zone scoring percentage (TD) (62.50%), which is undoubtedly an improvement from a year ago when the Falcons featured one of the worst red-zone scoring offenses in the league.
Smith has also figured out how to make the most out of Cordarrelle Patterson’s talents. He’s long been known as one of the premier return men in the league, earning All-Pro honors four times. However, outside of that, he was mostly known as a gadget player offensively, primarily regulated to jet sweeps and other gimmicky plays. That’s no longer the case in Atlanta.
Arthur Smith has used Patterson in various ways through the air and on the ground. He has taken many handoffs out of I-formation, next to Matt Ryan in shotgun, on sweeps, and everything in between. Patterson’s the second-leading rusher behind Mike Davis but is averaging more yards per carry. He’s the second-leading receiver behind Calvin Ridley and is the clear third-down threat out of the backfield. He’s averaging 7.0 yards per touch and leads the team in total scrimmage yards.
The most impressive part of Patterson’s contribution is the timing; it seems like whenever the Falcons need an explosive play or first down, he delivers. Among all NFL running backs, Patterson is fifth in 10+ yard runs (6). The video below displays those attributes that make him such a valuable asset to this team.
I never thought I’d be saying this but Cordarrelle Patterson is the #Falcons offensive MVP thru the first quarter of the season (he’s got a comfortable lead over the field thru three games). Here he freezes Logan Ryan in the open field before hitting him with a nasty stiff arm. pic.twitter.com/ZyX1ZOeUgw
— Matt Karoly (@mattkaroly) September 27, 2021
The Falcons offense as a whole has been disappointing, but Smith deserves credit for utilizing Patterson the way he has been. Matt Karoly is right; Patterson is easily the team’s offensive MVP thus far. He’s a significant reason why the Falcons offense has experienced a sliver of success.
Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire