The Falcons couldn’t have lost their season opener to the Eagles in a more embarrassing fashion than they did. Outside of being completely shut out, the Falcons failed in nearly every facet of the game — Younghoe Koo, you’re exempt. The Eagles dismantled the Falcons defense with dominant offensive line play and methodical use of RPOs and zone reads with the ultra-athletic Jalen Hurts. The Philadelphia defensive line consistently pressured Matt Ryan, and once they had a lead, the Eagles front four pinned their ears back and terrorized the Falcons QB. Nick Sirianni had a masterful game plan, and his players executed it perfectly.
Outside of the first couple of offensive drives, nothing went right for Arthur Smith’s squad. Even in those two series, Smith’s offense stalled in the red zone, resulting in two field goals. In Tennessee, he was heralded for his efficient red zone offense and was one reason, in particular, I supported the hire because of Atlanta’s historical struggles in that area. The worst thing about the two red zone trips was the first consisted of three plays without Kyle Pitts on the field… the generational talent that was supposed to be a red zone demon…
Still, it was just Week 1, and expectations for this new regime were set pretty high. The reality is this roster is extremely top-heavy, and when your best players underperform, that is the result. The Falcons looked outmatched in every possible way, but there are still 16 more games. NFL teams that don’t have a short memory aren’t very successful in this league; you have to be able to move on and focus all of your effort on the task at hand.
Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot have regularly preached that the team isn’t rebuilding this offseason; they are competing to win right now. They’ve harped on accountability since coming to Atlanta. Now, in the face of adversity, the new regime will have their chance to show the fan base and the rest of the NFL world they’re a competent head coach and general manager duo.
The Falcons will travel to Raymond James Stadium to face the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, who are returning all 22 of their offensive and defensive starters. On paper, everyone is expecting Tom Brady and Tampa Bay to steamroll Atlanta. This is the perfect opportunity for Arthur Smith and the Falcons to show some resilience. Everyone is expecting Atlanta to come out and lose without much of a fight. This Sunday afternoon matchup will reveal a lot about this team and Arthur Smith as a leader.