Winning a football game in the NFL is more challenging than you or I can even comprehend. There’s an infinite number of things that could go wrong on any given Sunday for a head coach. The offense, defense, and special teams each have a dozen moving parts that have to be accounted for. So, for Arthur Smith to get the first win of his head coaching career, a certain level of celebration is necessary.
The offense, for much of the afternoon, was held in check by the Giants defense. Matt Ryan and company did drive the field to get in range for a game-winning field goal, but as a whole, Smith’s offense was largely ineffective Sunday afternoon. Atlanta’s defense wasn’t stellar, but Dean Pees’ unit came up with multiple timely stops. Still, without the third phase doing their jobs, the game never would’ve been won.
Special teams never get any praise, but that is exactly what I plan to do in this piece. In Week 2 against the Buccaneers, the Falcons were within three points of the defending Super Bowl champions in the second half. Atlanta forced Tampa Bay to punt, and Bradley Pinion pinned Matt Ryan close to his own endzone. The Falcons would inevitably be forced to punt, which Cameron Nizialek proceeded to botch and give Tom Brady the ball on the Falcons 40-yard line, effectively sealing the fate of the Falcons.
There were whispers (from yours truly) that the team wouldn’t let Nizialek back on the team plane. This is precisely why we (me) are not in charge of the team. He responded after the staff brought in competition, resulting in his strongest outing to date. Nizialek pinned the Giants inside the 20-yard line three different times with a 47.3-yard average per punt.
He answered the call, but the special teams praise isn’t stopping there. The Falcons have one of the league’s best placekickers. Younghoe Koo is a fourth-year kicker and has been steady since replacing Matt Bryant in 2019. He’s a perfect 9-for-9 on field goals of 50 yards or more, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone when Koo nailed a 40-yard game-winner.
At times, winning an NFL game is nearly impossible. The Falcons have plenty of things to correct, but a win is a win. The special teams deserve praise for this victory in particular. Hats off to you, Marquice Williams!