Unfortunately, it doesn’t come as a surprise to Falcons fans, but they managed to blow another double digit lead in the 4th quarter, losing to the Saints in Week 1 of the 2022 season by a score of 27-26. The Falcons led 23-10 after three quarters before being outscored 17-3, courtesy of two Michael Thomas touchdowns and what ended up being the game-winning 51-yard field goal from Will Lutz.
There were some high points in the game. Running back Cordarrelle Patterson averaged an impressive 5.5 YPC on 22 carries for 120 yards, which included a five-yard touchdown run. Younghoe Koo was 4/5 on field goals, along with being 2/2 on XP attempts. Marcus Mariota didn’t look terrible in his Falcons debut, going 20/34 for 216 yards while rushing 12 times for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The defense also played better than expected for most of the game. They posted four sacks along and forced one turnover. Aside from one long Taysom Hill run, the run defense looked great, holding Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to 61 combined yards on 13 total carries. The inability for the offense to stay on the field in the fourth quarter played a part in the Saints being able to score on their last three possessions, winning them the game.
Looking forward, the Falcons head to SoFi to take on the Rams in Week 2. Week 3 they head to Seattle to face the Seahawks and the ’12th Man’. Week 4 they are back home against the Deshaun Watson-less Browns. You can usually tell how a season is going to go after the first four weeks. The Falcons showed us they are capable of competing with anyone, and 2-2 after four weeks isn’t unfathomable
Heading to Los Angeles after a disappointing season opener from the Rams does not provide much confidence, but in Seattle and at home versus Cleveland are winnable games. I believe the run defense and the pass rush will be critical over these next three weeks. If you force Stafford to make quick decisions, he will make mistakes. Geno Smith played a great, emotional game against the Broncos, but part of his success was because they were able to run the ball effectively. The Browns have one of the best backfields in the NFL, but they will also be without Watson. If you force Brissett to make plays by taking away the run, you have a much better chance at coming out with a win.
Offensively, Atlanta must keep utilizing Patterson out of the backfield, and find ways to get Kyle Pitts more involved. Pitts finished last week with just two catches, both coming in the first half, for 19 yards on seven targets. Keeping Drake London involved will prove to be beneficial as the season progresses. He finished his first career game with five catches for 74 yards on just seven targets.
The Falcons did what they do best and instilled some hope in the fanbase. I believe this team can be better than people thought. They showed that against a good division opponent in the Saints. It is going to be an uphill battle between the team and the fans all season, but I am not ready to write them off yet and I encourage you to join me.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire