Coming into the season, the Falcons’ identity was apparent. Arthur Smith’s offense had one of the most efficient and effective rushing attacks in the league, but it’s seemingly taken a significant step back in 2023.
They rank 14th in yards per rush and 9th in yards per game on the ground. However, the approach defenses have taken to slow down Atlanta’s offense is the same — stack the box and force an unreliable quarterback to throw the ball.
That’s what the Titans did on Sunday, according to Arden Key, who told reporters that Tennessee knew of Atlanta’s struggles to protect the quarterback in pass sets.
Titans OLB Arden Key postgame. Interesting note on ATL's offense/OL:
"We just focused on stopping the run. We knew that their strength was running the football. If we stopped them from running the football, we knew that they lacked that pass protection, & we showed that today."
— Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) October 30, 2023
The Titans sacked Desmond Ridder five times and Taylor Heinicke once for a combined 44 yards lost. Ridder had a typical first half, throwing for 71 yards on 8-of-12 passing while losing yet another fumble. In the first half, the Falcons totaled just 28 rushing yards on runs outside of quarterback scrambles.
They couldn’t get anything going. Then, Heinicke and the offense responded in the second half. Heincike threw for 175 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-21 passing. The Falcons eclipsed their first half rushing total on the first drive in the second half, recording 37 yards and ending up with 72 rushing yards in the second half.
It resulted in a more balanced attack and kept the Titans defense off balance. The Falcons’ offensive line performed much better, surrendering just one sack. However, Heinicke getting the ball out quicker definitely made it easier on Atlanta’s line, which Jeffery Simmons pointed out in his post game interview.
It was clear the Falcons were a better football team with Heinicke on the field. The Falcons only mustered three points and 89 yards of offense in the first half compared to 20 points and 253 total yards in the second half.
Photographer: Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire