In ugly fashion, the Falcons got their first victory under Arthur Smith on a last-second Younghoe Koo field goal against the Giants this past Sunday. It was a challenging game to watch that featured a Falcons offense held under 300 yards of total offense, but the only thing that matters in sports is winning and losing. After the game on his grown-out beard, Arthur Smith jokingly commented that it was a “get a win beard.”
Arthur Smith on his growing beard — it’s a “get a win beard.” pic.twitter.com/BuJM5cYXCL
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) September 26, 2021
It was a light-hearted moment after a stressful game, but it shows quite a lot. The witty remark tells me that Smith was extremely tense and under pressure to deliver his first win. He seems so relieved to have removed that monkey that’s been on his back for the past couple of weeks. It was a subtle display of the pressures this league puts on head coaches, quarterbacks, and everyone in between.
Earning a win in the NFL is incredibly difficult, so the Falcons and their fans should absolutely celebrate this victory. Still, there was plenty of concerning decision-making that has to be corrected. On the first drive of the afternoon in MetLife Stadium, Arthur Smith elected to go with a Feleipe Franks zone read on a third down. It was a questionable decision, at best. Later, Franks would line up at tight end…
There’s absolutely no reason for Franks to get a single snap outside of a blowout or Matt Ryan injury. Still, there were other decisions that frustrated me. The Falcons were without Russell Gage after he suffered an ankle injury the previous week against Tampa Bay, and Smith almost refused to scheme his receivers open from the get-go.
Smith hardly used any condensed formations, rub/pick routes, and motions, which are all easy ways to get your wideouts separation at the line of scrimmage. There’s also the continued lack of Kyle Pitts on the field in the red zone, which, again, should never happen. The Giants threw a ton of bracket and combo coverages at Pitts, but there is still no excuse for not having someone so threatening out there. His presence alone helps the offense. If Pitts isn’t up-to-par on the mental side, that is understandable to a certain degree.
The lack of targets for Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst is concerning. Again, I realize the approach the Giants had in taking Pitts away, but to see the tight end duo so underused is frustrating, to say the least, especially against a New York defense that has been torched by tight ends this season. Smith and Ryan came up clutch when it mattered most, but there is still plenty to correct.
The defense has looked far more competent than the offense, and for a supposed offensive-minded guru, it concerns me how inconsistent Arthur Smith’s group has done. Matt Ryan led the Falcons down the field in the waning minutes of the game for a game-winning field in Matty Ice fashion, but the offense was largely held in check for much of the day. There were head-scratching play designs and play calls, but the most important thing is the Falcons came out on top.