In week one, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts showed glimpses of the offensive weapons they could be. Patterson burst for multiple double-digit runs, finishing as the Falcons leading rusher, and Pitts finished with four receptions for 31 yards.
In Sunday afternoon's game against the Buccaneers — Pitts, and Patterson fully emerged as offensive threats.
If nothing else, when Patterson joined the Falcons, he was an instant upgrade to the return team, which has not finished with more than 700 yards since Andre Roberts in 2017. Patterson is one of the best kick returners in league history and led the league in kick return yards the past two seasons.
But Patterson came to Atlanta with experience all over the field, mainly at running back and wide receiver, and on Sunday, he was effective in all three roles.
Just his presence as a kick returner helped the Falcons on Sunday.
The Buccaneers avoided Patterson entirely, with shorter kickoffs that put the offense in better field position. Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians admitted post-game that he did not want the ball to be in Patterson's hands-on kick returns.
Avery Williams benefitted from the Buccaneers' strategy, returning the ball four times for 59 yards. Patterson ended up getting one return opportunity which he took for 27 yards.
Patterson had just 11 total yards on the ground, but the numbers do not reflect his impact. With the Falcons down 14-0 in the second quarter and in need of a score, Patterson got the ball on a pitch from Matt Ryan and made a hard cut to evade a defender and score.
Patterson shined in the passing game, too, catching five passes for 58 yards for a touchdown. His best reception came with the Falcons down 28-17 in the third quarter. He released a block and caught a one-handed pass from Matt Ryan before running in the endzone. The Falcons made the two-point conversion and brought the game within three.
"[Cordarrelle Patterson] is a good football player. We hope to build off that," Arthur Smith said post-game. "[He is] fun to coach, and I'm glad he's on our team."
As for Pitts, he led the team in receiving yards, with 73 on five receptions. Pitts' looked more like a wide receiver than a tight end when he made a one-handed grab on a ball that was thrown behind him on third and seven. Pitts took the pass 24 yards before being dragged down by multiple defenders.
Arthur Smith said that Pitts' performance was a sign of his growth and the chemistry that he and Ryan have built through training camp and practices.
"It's a hard position to play in the NFL," Smith said. "The way we ask him to play it. We ask him to go be a receiver; you're asking him to go block a tackle at times. We move him all over the place. A lot of rookies can't handle that, but Kyle clearly can."
While Smith admitted that Pitts' performance was impressive, he also noted that these types of games are what they expect from the rookie tight end.
"What you're seeing is why we brought Kyle in here," Smith said. "His growth has accelerated for what we're asking him to do. I'm pleased with that, and hopefully, he continues to build on it."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Week 2 of 2021.