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Bair Mail: On Arthur Smith and the Falcons offense, Desmond Ridder and Cordarrelle Patterson

Your questions get answers as the Falcons prepare for a Week 7 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Falcons beat the Washington Commanders in almost every category save two. Turnover margin and final score.

That pair, however, is a killer for those losing such battles. That's why the Falcons are .500 when they're both deserving of their record and probably left believing that they could have done better.

There's nothing left to do but move on from disappointment and try to maximize strengths and minimize issues that proved costly in the recent past.

That's where the Falcons find themselves heading in this Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as pivotal a divisional clash as you'll see at this point in the season.

Let's dive into your questions, comments and concerns heading into this NFC South matchup:


Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

I'm surprised how poorly we've been able to run the ball lately. I'm surprised with the poor time management lately. I'm not a big fan of going for it nearly every fourth down. I'm feeling like little to no progress has been made lately and if anything, we're regressing. What's happening, Scott?

Bair: Hey, Will. Good to hear from you. There's a lot going on with your questions, though I'm catching a theme so I'll focus on that and address your last point first. Is the offense regressing? I don't think so. It's recalibrating some and adjusting to how defenses are playing against the Falcons. We're seeing a greater strive for balance, especially as teams are focused on slowing the Falcons run game.

The ground attack has become less efficient in some regards, though they're still churning out yards and remain committed to the effort. I will say the Falcons are moving the ball well overall – they've had 849 yards in the last two games – and avoiding five turnovers in that span would certainly send the scoring totals skyward. If the Falcons can avoid critical mistakes, I think they'll start looking pretty good. That, however, hasn't happened yet.

I know it's maddening to fans when procedural issues hinder scoring opportunities. Trust me that it drives Arthur Smith up a wall as well. It hurt the Falcons comeback efforts versus Washington. Of that, there is no doubt.

Also, since we're talking about Smith, we can eliminate the "fire him" dialogue altogether. That isn't happening. Nor should it. He's a smart, creative play designer and a respected leader in this building. He's also as objective, accountable and self-critical as any head coach I've been around; and I've been around a long time and have covered a lot of head coaches. There's no telling how it'll work out for him in this role, but he has the tools and mindset required to do it right.

Now, back to the offense. We'll delve a bit deeper into quarterback Desmond Ridder in the next question, but we'll show off some stats about the backs over the last four games. During that span, Tyler Allgeier has averaged 2.7 yards per carry. Bijan Robinson has averaged 4.3 yards per carry during that span, which includes an outlier (within this stretch) of 7.5 yards per carry versus Jacksonville. Don't take those stats to blame the backs or the blocking. At some point, there's a lot to it we don't know in terms of scheme and execution.

We do know that growing pains exist, and that's what we're experiencing with this group. Some good, some (really bad). But there's talent here and fixable problems, which provides cause for optimism.


Robert Linzmeier from De Pere, Wisconsin

Ridder has made some really nice throws and has had his young QB lapses, reminiscent of Matt Ryan throwing INTs in endzone. People are quick to say put Heinicke in or go get someone. Everyone wants Mahomes or a top 5 QB. but those guys aren't available in free agency and even when the team is bad enough you draft who you think is that guy and still are 0-6 like the Panthers. Be patient and let the guy grow, what are your thoughts on Ridder's play so far?

Bair: I got a bunch of Desmond Ridder questions between Sunday's loss to Washington and when I sat down to write. This was one of a select few that didn't demand he be benched.

Let's make one thing clear: Desmond Ridder played a significant role in that Week 6 loss. His three interceptions proved costly. That's part of the gig as an NFL starting quarterback, credit for wins and blame for losses. The last two weeks are a perfect example of that.

This is just me talking here, but I don't think we're close to a change at quarterback. I don't think that's a positive development plan for a young signal caller. You have to work through some of these things to grow and improve as a player. We also need a larger sample size to determine if he's a long-term solution at quarterback. And one more point that doesn't get brought up much, Taylor Heinicke is a gamer who teammates love and can go win you a game, but has thrown a fair amount of interceptions, including 15 in his only full season as a full-time starter. He was better over nine starts in 2022, with 12 TDs and six picks.

Smith acknowledged that critical mistakes are costing the Falcons in 2023. They must be better overall at taking care of the football. That obviously includes the quarterback.

"I think you have to acknowledge those are things that happened, right?" Smith said. "You break it down. Ok, so – it's always hard up here because I don't ever want to ever sound like I'm making excuses or denying the inevitable. What happened, happened, but if you look at it, macro or big picture, there are a lot of things that are expanding. He's making some big-time throws and guys are doing a good job of getting open. That should benefit us, but the critical errors – like I said, when you go minus three in the turnovers, it's going to get you beat more times than not. They are different. That's the only thing I can say. If a guy was making the same mistake, the result still goes down as an interception, but why they happened may have been different. I wouldn't call it discouraged, but clearly, we have to eliminate those critical errors."

I also think Arthur Smith is right by saying the passing game has improved. It needs to be with so much opponent emphasis on stopping the run. The Falcons have the playmakers to be explosive working the ball downfield. They are sometimes, but probably not enough at this point. More progress must be made in a hurry, with a tough game at Tampa Bay coming up.


Barry Wynn from Rex, Ga.

Cordarrelle Patterson has been a non-factor six games into the season. Is it time to say with the ineffectiveness of the offensive line that there are not a lot of targets available for Patterson?

Bair: Cordarrelle Patterson was banged up to start the season and the Falcons have brought him along slowly. I was surprised, however, to see him used so little in his third game back from a thigh injury. He played 10 offensive snaps and got two touches. That, to me, seems odd. CP is the biggest traditional rusher on the roster – he's listed at 232 pounds – and runs the ball hard. The Falcons have gone with Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson primarily. At this point, I'm still willing to say they're easing him back in. But, if his workload remains similar, then it might be easier to say the Falcons prefer other options.

Call for questions

Let's refill the mailbag by submitting questions right here for inclusion in Friday's edition of Bair Mail.

Take an overhead look back at the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Washington Commanders during Week 6.

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