When Arthur Smith took over in Atlanta, optimism spread like wildfire throughout the Falcons fan base. However, it was quickly extinguished after Smith’s head coaching debut in Mercedes Benz Stadium against the Eagles. The Philadelphia defensive line bullied Matt Hennessy, Kaleb McGary, and, most embarrassingly, Jalen Mayfield. The first two drives were impressive and showed glimpses of what Smith’s innovative offense could look like in Atlanta, but both of those drives stalled in the red zone. Atlanta was outscored 32-6 and outgained 434 yards to 260, and the team is trying to avoid a repeat of that disaster.
In doing so, the coaching staff has done a couple of things differently. The starters played significant snaps through the preseason, and the Falcons practiced in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Wednesday’s practice.
“It’s not just Week 1, you go back and assess the whole thing,” Smith said Wednesday. “I’m a hypocrite if I don’t look at myself first and say, ‘What could we do better?’ That’s what they pay me to do.
“You go back and you look at it, and we felt like with this team, where we’re at, the youth, lessons learned last year, learning from certain failures, what can we do better? That may change next year, but we felt like this was the best for us and we’ll see where it goes.”
Now, I don’t know if either of those differences will be meaningful, but you have to respect Smith’s self-awareness. Resting starters could’ve been the reason for Atlanta’s undoing in the 2021 season opener, and the first-time head coach has seemingly attempted to correct that mistake. The Falcons starters had infinitely more burn during the preseason compared to last year’s. Matt Ryan didn’t take a single snap during the 2021 preseason, while Marcus Mariota played in every single exhibition this year.
The Falcons are 5.5-point home underdogs against the Saints this weekend. Similarly, losing to New Orleans as the team did to the Eagles will be extremely embarrassing and discouraging for the fan base.
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