FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons had a huge win in New Orleans a few days back.
It seems the emotional high from that game has worn off. Now y'all are focused on why things got so close there at the end and what could've prevented the need for a dramatic comeback.
Let's hit on those topics in Wednesday's Bair Mail:
Charlie C. from Boulder, Colo.
Scott, considering that the falcons started this season 1-3, and after week 9, the Falcons are .500 & in the playoffs hunt, don't you think that Arthur smith and his coaching staff have done a pretty good job so far especially with the Falcons salary cap limitations?
Bair: I'm on record a few times over praising the job Arthur Smith has done thus far and the proper mindset he takes to being a head coach. There have already been times where poorly coached teams would've caved after what the Falcons have gone through in games and between them.
The Falcons fighting spirit has become their defining characteristic, something that will carry through difficult times, especially where they have a talent deficiency.
I think Smith has been good. I think the scouting department has done a good job proving players in-season to improve the roster, all while working to get out from under their salary-cap constraints.
James Mcintosh from Coalville, Utah
That was a big win against the Saints. Unbelievable finish! Do think we can make a playoff run without Calvin Ridley? Our chances have to be a lot better if we get him back......what are the chances of him getting back with the Team in the next couple of weeks??
Bair: The Falcons are 2-1 in games without Ridley, so, yes. The Falcons have done well producing without their best receiver. That said, there's no one on this planet who believes they're better without him. They have done a good job of producing without him in the pattern, using an effective by-committee approach with Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson as top options.
We don't know when Ridley could return, though Falcons' fingers are certainly crossed that he can help them down the line.
Terrance Fleming from Eugene, Ore.
Hi Scott, super win at the super dome! But another near collapse in the second half. What do you think is behind that persistent problem for the Falcons?
Bair: Thanks for the question, Terrence. You had included poor defense and play calling as a possible reason why the Falcons have a tough time putting teams away with an established second-half lead. I'm going in a different direction. The Falcons inability to stay on schedule in those situations, especially while running the ball, holds them back in this area. It's easier to bleed the clock when keeping things on the ground, but that only works if you can consistently take 3-4 yards per attempt.
Falling behind in that effort makes life harder in those situations. The Athletic's Josh Kendall does a good job addressing that issue here. We've seen the Falcons put a team away on offense, in London against the Jets. That obviously didn't happen in New Orleans. While the Saints have a top tier defense, the Falcons had one negative play after another, especially on first down. That set them back and allowed New Orleans to get back in the game.
You must be getting tired of me saying a good run game is a great closer, especially when the whole world knows what you're going to do. The Falcons don't have that yet. Whether you run or pass, efficient gains and easier third down conversions are good ways to keep the ball and the lead. The Falcons need to do a better job in those areas.
This was also a topic of conversation in Smith's Wednesday press conference, and he said it's an all-three-phases thing. He's right. When you're up that big, it's about not giving short fields up in the return game. It's about not giving up explosive plays and penalties on defense. And, as we've discussed, it's about staying on schedule and moving chains on offense.
Call for questions
We have one mailbag left before the Cowboys game. Get your questions in now, using this link, for inclusion in Friday's edition of Bair Mail.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints during Week 9 of 2021.