The Falcons ended a miserable two-game slide on Sunday with a win over the reeling Jaguars, who gave Atlanta every chance to win the football game with turnovers, penalties, and dropped passes. The Falcons did so mostly on the legs of Cordarrelle Patterson and an impressive defensive performance.
The offensive line created running lanes a Mack truck could drive through, resulting in Patterson setting career-highs in carries (16), rush yards (108), and rushing touchdowns (2). While the defense uncharacteristically forced two turnovers to help the Falcons get back in the playoff hunt as Arthur Smith has his squad one game out of a Wild Card spot.
Kyle Pitts didn’t see much action in Sunday’s 21-14 victory, finishing the day with two catches on six targets for only 26 yards. The rookie phenom returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of), but Pitts was held under 30 yards for the second consecutive game. The Falcons passing attack hasn’t been great in recent weeks, and Pitts’ production has suffered. The fourth overall pick has done very little since posting 163 yards against the Dolphins in Week 7, totaling 190 yards over the past five weeks.
Pitts is obviously one of two focal points of this offense, the other being Patterson, so opposing defenses will key on him in game plans. It shouldn’t be unexpected to see the former Florida Gator bracketed by multiple defenders on any given route. Pitts will see double coverage for the rest of his professional career, but that shouldn’t stop Smith from scheming him open through bunch sets, rub routes, motion, etc.
It isn’t for lack of trying, though. Per PlayerProfiler.com, Pitts leads all tights in air yards share, which is about 29% of Matt Ryan‘s passing yards going to the rookie. He’s obviously getting a lot of opportunities. He ranks 24th in catchable target rate, despite ranking first in air yards share among tight ends. Pitts averages 14.8 yards per reception, which is incredible. Still, his yards per route run (2.2) is middling; Pitts just hasn’t seen great balls from Ryan as much as other tight ends.
So, should this spark concern? In short, no. The Falcons rookie will slowly learn the nuances of NFL defenses and his own offensive system the more experience he gains. Pitts is a special player, but it might take a comprehensive game plan to scheme him open against defenses unwilling to throw single coverage at him. Either that or the Falcons becoming more competent in the run game to force opposing defenses to keep more people in the box. The Falcons are in between a rock and a hard place on this one. Without a consistent rushing attack, defenses can sit with two safeties deep, keeping Pitts catching short passes or bracketed as soon as he gets seven yards down the field.