The Falcons are officially on a bye week. They're 2-3 entering this respite, a record secured by a 27-20 victory over the New York Jets in London.
That was a fun one, maybe a little too fun there at the end, but all's well that ends well.
We saw the running game gain some life, the defense make some stops and the offense coming through big time in the clutch.
And, after sifting through the postgame mailbag, you all are Arthur Smith fans again. Didn't like his approach to the fourth-quarter offense against Washington but LOVED how he handled the pivotal fourth-quarter Jets drive. And, apparently, how he kept the offense going without Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage.
We'll spend some time on all that, the rest of that Jets game and where the Falcons stand moving forward.
Let's get to it in a victory Monday mailbag:
Bryan Pool from Travelers Rest, S.C.
OK Scott, last week I was up in arms about Coach Smith running the ball with 4 minutes left. I felt that it took the ball out of our best playmaker and best veteran on our team, Matt Ryan. This week he put the ball in his hands to get the 2 or 3 first downs we needed. Then he ran the ball to milk the clock! I felt the play calling was like night and day. My question is do you think there is a learning curve with head coaching and the players under him. Does it take time to learn what works with a team and what doesn't?
Bair: Thanks for the question/comment, Bryan. There were several folks who felt the way you did after that Washington game, that Smith didn't do enough to kickstart the offense in the fourth quarter. I didn’t take issue with the play calling then and still don’t. It's all about results, and those Washington runs weren't executed well enough. The third-down screen, though, maybe something different could've been chosen there, with hindsight being 20/20.
Smith chose to be more aggressive and that's fine with me, too. I do agree with your stance that putting the ball in your best playmakers' hands is the way to go. Kyle Pitts touched the ball twice, Cordarrelle Patterson four times. Every play to them didn't work, but there was a real chance for explosiveness that played out well in that 39-yard strike to start the drive.
To directly answer your question, yes. There is a learning curve to becoming a head coach, as long as you're willing to, you know, actually learn and adapt. Smith has show that ability time and again. It's one of my favorite things about his coaching style. He's an innovative mind who isn't super stubborn. He discussed that postgame in a great quote you can read right here.
I thought it was a banner day for Smith, how he was able to prepare the team after a tough loss, while dealing with the London travel and the sudden loss of Ridley and Falcons injured players.
Mike Brunson from Sandy Springs, Ga.
Will the performance in London mean more snaps for the rookies, and how much will ball security going to be addressed?
Bair: Generally speaking, I would say yes. It might not be a universal statement, that all rookies will see playing time go up. In my mind, however, Ade Ogundeji might've earned a higher-priority spot in the edge-rusher rotation.
Richie Grant played 28 snaps, several of them in the slot. He could be an answer moving forward as the Falcons move forward without Isaiah Oliver. Time will on that front, and it may be based on matchups. Smith keeps saying he has a plan for Grant, though many of you would like to expedite it.
Here's what Smith said about Grant on Sunday afternoon: "We've got a lot of confidence in him. He's a good football player. It was naturally going to happen. It got expedited because of the injuries. He stepped up. He's another fearless guy that we like, a young guy to build around."
Jeff Kole from Savannah, Ga.
I think the success of the running game, especially in the first half, facilitated the passing game. Do you think we 're beginning to turn the corner on rushing — or, realistically, did it look better only because we were facing a lackluster opponent?
Bair: I think the offensive success, of the running game and passing game as complimentary efforts, started up front. The offensive line didn't allow a sack, and there was plenty of room to run on the interior, especially.
You bring up a good point that Sunday's success came against a struggling Jets team, but I think there was progress overall for a unit that is getting empirically better.
The Falcons hit triple digits on the ground, got rushers to the second level a few times were able to run 29 times. Matt Ryan never got sacked and had time to work the ball down the field. We all know what happens when he has that luxury.
Call for questions
We've got another Bair Mail coming up on Wednesday, right in the middle of this bye week. Let's use it to do something little different. Ask me anything, from Falcons football to movies to my sweet tea aversion, or whatever you want to talk about. Address the questions to me or Tori or Kris. I'll get them to chime into this one if y'all want. Submit your questions for an "Ask me anything" mailbag right here.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Jets during Week 5 of 2021.