And we're on to New England.
That sentence was written for two reasons: 1. As an ode to Bill Belichick, who is bringing the red-hot Patriots to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday night. 2. It’s a mandatory action after the disastrous showing in Dallas, with another game a few days away.
Y'all seem to agree with that logic. It's clear from the mailbag submissions that fixing problems moving forward is more important that rehashing the negatives that took place at AT&T Stadium.
And…big surprise! This isn't just a Bair Mail It's McElhaney Mail, too. Tori's going to chime in an answer two of your questions on this fine Monday.
Let's get right to them, right now. I'm up first:
Keyon Peace from Houston
This is my first time writing in. How are you? Matt Ryan will get a lot of undeserved the blame for that game but maybe it's time to let Wayne get more opportunities in the backfield with Davis struggling? The key to a successful offense is a decent run game and with the offensive line struggles, why not try more screens and check downs? Every play doesn't have to go for 10+.
Bair: Thanks for joining in, Keyon. Appreciate the question. It's a fair one. The running game is not performing well enough to this point, with inefficiency throughout the operation. We can clearly look at Mike Davis’ yards per carry and point the finger squarely at him, but that's trying to identify a simple solution to a complex problem.
It's not just a running back issue. It's an offensive line issue as well. You can see that in the fact that Davis' yards per carry (3.3) are so close to his yards per carry after contact (2.68). He's getting early in his runs, and then fighting for every inch. Patterson's numbers are a little better thanks to some explosive runs, but the ground game hasn't been up to par. I'm not sure Wayne Gallman's the answer. He has been here a long time now, with precious few opportunities to show for it. He has to earn those in practice.
As you pointed out, a good short passing game can be an effective rushing substitute if done right, and that's an option that has worked well for the Falcons at times. We could see more of that, but I think Arthur Smith is right to stay committed to the run.
Spencer Lee from Athens, Ga.
I feel like most people knew that the new regime wasn't going to magically turn this team into a top contender in year one, but it seems like the soonest the Falcons could contend would maybe be in 2023 given the current lack of talent and the cap situation that is going to remain tight until at least then. Do you think it will take that long for the team to turn it all the way around and with the situation they inherited when is it fair to give an evaluation on this regime? (Also if Tori is reading this one Go Dawgs!)
McElhaney: Hi Spencer! Thanks for the question (and shoot yeah, go dawgs, man).
Goodness I could spend 1,000 words answering your question alone. But I have been told by Scott that I am not allowed to use his mailbag for my rants so I'll try to keep this short.
I personally think it's going to take time, and I tend to agree with you that it'll be 2023, or even 2024. But as I write that there are a bunch of variables in my head about even trying to predict that year.
Matt Ryan's contract - and what the Falcons decide to do at the QB position long term - plays a big part in where the Falcons go in the future. I tend to think it's a safe bet to make that Ryan is here for the duration of his contract. I just don't know how you shake his cap hit. So, in the meantime, you sure up the defense. I think that's where you put your focus throughout the next two years' draft classes/free agency. I think this unit has a long way to go. And to get it where Dean Pees wants it to be is going to take a couple years and quite a bit of turnover.
There's also something to be said about the level of talent in the wide receivers room without Calvin Ridley. Sure, Kyle Pitts' is going to continue to do big things for the Falcons, but there needs to be more offensive weapons sprinkled throughout. Even though Cordarrelle Patterson said last week he'd love to stay in Atlanta, there's no guarantee he will - or can - stay. So, there could be a bit of offensive turnover in the next two years, too.
And where does that leave us? With a lot of roster movement over the course of the next - roughly - two years to get the cap where the Falcons can be big time players in free agency. Until then, draft picks will be worth their weight in gold for this organization until - likely - 2023.
(Dang. I wrote more than I wanted to. Scott is never going to let me answer another mailbag question again).
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Dallas Cowboys during Week 10 of 2021.
Guy Lenz from Lawrenceville, Ga.
It seems that teams have figured out how to beat us: Throw away from AJ Terrell and take advantage of our weak secondary. Smother Pitts with double/triple coverage and dare us to beat them with the rest of the team...I think we are really missing Calvin Ridley. Unless they're inept offensively it's a formula for success. Do you see it differently?
Bair: I don't see it, exactly the same, Guy, but I agree with your main point. The Falcons don't do well when their stars aren't, well, stars of the show. They don't have the depth to get it done with Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson not producing steadily and the defense not creating stops and turnovers.
I also agree with you that the Falcons miss having Calvin Ridley on the field. Even though his numbers weren’t sky high before taking leave, he's a real threat who must be respected. Not having that changes things a bit.
The Falcons drafted two cornerbacks in the last NFL draft, but still may need to add another one to find the type of don't-mess-with-me cornerback opposite Terrell that will make the Falcons secondary tough to beat.
Danawhy Davis from Augusta, Ga.
Why can't the Falcons get a decent pass rush?
McElhaney: Great question, and one I will try to answer without sounding like a meanie.
I think it's indicative of where this defense is that Dean Pees said he put "too much" on their plate early and had to taper things back to give them what they could handle.
Perhaps we read in between the lines as to what he is actually saying.
Pees has explained on multiple occasions that a good coach never gives a unit more than they can handle. Right now, he estimated he has installed just 30 percent of his scheme. I don't know much about the install process because it's a very behind-closed-doors thing, but that number seems incredibly telling to me. So, I know that doesn't directly answer your question about establishing a decent pass rush, but I think if we read between the lines, it does.
Call for questions
We've got one more Bair Mail before the big Thursday night showdown. Submit your questions right here for Wednesday's mailbag.