Falcons vs. Buccaneers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

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The final score of the Falcons Week 2 matchup with the Buccaneers — 48-25 — would suggest the reigning Super Bowl champions steamrolled the lowly Falcons. Still, Atlanta had more positive takeaways than in Week 1, when they put up six points against the Eagles.

Tampa Bay went into the half with complete control of the game up 21-10, and the beginning of the second half went much like the first — Matt Ryan would throw an interception, leading to a Bucs touchdown. Then, on a series of back-and-forths, Atlanta would score two touchdowns while forcing Tampa to punt twice in a row. Within three, the Falcons totally collapsed and reminded us all how far this team is from competing for a Super Bowl.

The Good

  • There were glimpses of a sustainable offense as Matt Ryan and Arthur Smith put together a handful of efficient drives. A straightforward game plan was constructed to quickly get the ball out of Ryan’s hands to avoid the Bucs’ fierce pass rush. He still faced pressure, which he avoided for much of the day. As a whole, Ryan looked much more comfortable in Week 2 than Week 1, but a couple of tipped interceptions taken for six would ruin anything good he had done beforehand.
  • Those successful drives were fueled by decent offensive line play, which was the butt of many jokes last week — namely, Jalen Mayfield. He had a false start for the second straight game, but there were improvements. Obviously, the third-round pick played as bad as one could against the Eagles and didn’t play great against the Bucs, but he was better, which is all you can ask from a rookie.
  • A.J. Terrell is starting to make his presence known, tipping a pass that would’ve surely been a touchdown on the opening drive. The defense needs all the help it can get, which Terrell is beginning to show he can do. He tipped another pass later, too, but a concussion in the second half would end his afternoon. If he can’t go next week, the Falcons defense is in trouble.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson is going to be a big part of Arthur Smith’s offense going forward. He looks like he hasn’t lost a step and his big-play ability gives Smtih flexibility to use him in a variety of ways, leading to a pair of touchdowns Sunday afternoon.
  • Much like the rest of the team, Kyle Pitts had an overall better game in Week 2. He led the team in receiving and showed his incredible athleticism when he reached back on a slant to catch a Matt Ryan bullet and took it 24 yards in the blink of an eye. He used his range to catch a hard-thrown ball behind him; then, his breath-taking acceleration took over as he jetted past would-be tacklers.

The Bad

  • The decision to not go for it on a short fourth down in Tampa territory then immediately go for it on the next series in Falcons territory was a puzzling move by Arthur Smith. The play call was abysmal, too. A quarterback sneak..? Arthur Smith will have to take this one on the chin; it wasn’t the right call. Then Smith would similarly call a nonsensical play by lining up Russell Gage in the wildcat, which would also fail.
  • The Falcons continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Atlanta didn’t take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes, while the Bucs were able to convert on every single miscue by the Falcons.
  • The Falcons defense is still lacking so much talent. Both safeties need upgrading; A.J. Terrell is better suited as a CB2, and the entire defensive line could use a makeover.

The Ugly

  • Steven Means does not need to be starting. There were occasions when Tampa’s offensive linemen drove him seven and eight yards off the ball. He doesn’t have a pass rush arsenal and largely gets stonewalled on attempts. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ade Ogundeji slowly takes over for Means as the season progresses.
  • Though the offense was able to move the ball at times on Sunday, the offensive line is still largely ineffective. Jalen Mayfield had a few nice pass set reps against Vita Vea and William Gholston but was still outmatched for much of the game. At least he improved; Matt Hennessy and Kaleb McGary looked just as bad as they did in Week 1. Hennessy was regularly skating back into Matt Ryan’s lap, and McGary seems to have reverted back to his rookie-level of play. This is a bad offensive line, and no quarterback can overcome three terrible linemen.
  • Cameron Nizialek was fine last week, but he shanked two punts this week, and one was at a critical juncture in the game. He blundered a punt after a bomb from Bradley Pinion¬†flipped the field, giving Tom Brady prime field position to lead a touchdown drive.¬†Jeff Schultz of The Athletic reported after the game that the Falcons will work out punters this week.
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