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Even in win, Falcons offense still working to find its tune and rhythm

Desmond Ridder and Arthur Smith said the Falcons offense was without rhythm early against the Panthers on Sunday. They ultimately found it, but to be the best they can be, they can't lose it. 

ATLANTA -- Think of a football game as a symphony orchestra. When all the instruments are in tune together, the sound is beautiful, soothing, without faults. Percussion is on beat. Melodies are aligned. Sounds turn to song.

In the Falcons' 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 of the 2023 season, the Atlanta offensive orchestra needed a bit of fine-tuning.

When the game began, different groups were in different keys. This was most notable in the pass game's production (or lack thereof) through the first three quarters. There were some spacing issues with the Falcons skill players, head coach Arthur Smith said. He added that an obvious issue early had to do with protection, too. Quarterback Desmond Ridder was sacked four times. Ridder himself said the final eight minutes of the second quarter saw him "trying to do too much" and "not staying within (his) reads."

By the time the Falcons went into the locker room for halftime (or intermission if we're sticking with the musical theme), the score was tied up at 7-all, and the resounding sound of the offense was off-key. The Falcons had zero net passing yards as an offensive stat line at halftime.

The game could have gotten out of hand if the defense wasn't disrupting Carolina's offense. Jessie Bates III -- alone -- accumulated two interceptions and one forced fumble. He also led the team in tackles, tying with Troy Andersen. The Falcons sacked Bryce Young twice and forced four three-and-outs. Calais Campbell said it best, noting by the second half, the defense "was humming."

Humming a tune that was pleasing to the ear.

It took the offense a little longer to hum, though, and both Ridder and Smith are aware this is something that needs remedying. Smith said after the game that you don't apologize for a win, and he was pleased with how the team adapted as the game went on, but yes, there's a bit to clean up offensively. Ridder agreed.

"The thing that kept us in (this game) was our defense," Ridder said. "… For us, it's about not always having to rely on our defense, being able to get in a rhythm. … That's something that we have to work on. That's something we have to keep going and keep getting better at."

Ridder went on to say the Falcons -- particularly in the first half offensively -- "were playing way beneath where (they) should be," especially knowing where they can be.


For what it's worth, the Falcons offense did do enough to win. Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier made up 80% of the Falcons' total offensive production on Sunday. Kyle Pitts made a game-changing, 35-yard grab to set up what ended up being the Falcons' game-sealing touchdown.

As the game evolved, the offense eventually found its tune. The final drive of the third quarter and first drive of the fourth quarter for the Falcons was that tune. The final drive of the third quarter (which bled into the fourth quarter) saw a first-down grab by Pitts, an explosive run by Robinson and some tough running by Allgeier. It was a seven-play drive that resulted in a touchdown.

The second-to-last full offensive series was a six-play drive that saw good decisions made by Ridder, a big play made by Pitts and key runs supplemented by Allgeier. It took good time off the clock, and it, too, resulted in a touchdown. This is all well and good, but the Falcons can be better. Their offensive tune didn't reach its crescendo until the fourth quarter. For the Falcons to be where they want to be at the end of the season (which should be at the top of their division, above .500, etc.) this tune needs to come together sooner. Atlanta knows that.

Smith said the Falcons have to be cleaner. They have to be more productive -- early -- as an offense. They have to be more dynamic and balanced. Offensively, they have to be what they were in the fourth quarter for all four quarters: spreading the ball out, finding their song, their rhythm.

They know they can do a better job as an offense overall. They know they can take pressure off their defense. They know they can get more guys involved -- and sooner, too. (Case in point being that Pitts didn't have his first catch until there was about a minute left in the third quarter. Drake London never recorded a catch, neither did Jonnu Smith).

Stat lines can be deceiving, yes. Smith will be the first to tell you that.

"We don't care about the stats," Smith said. "We care about one: winning."

And yes, the Falcons did win on Sunday. They did, ultimately, find their tune. Their percussion finally found its beat, and its melodies righted themselves by the song's conclusion. For this team to be what it wants to be, though, the less that tune falters off-key, the better the Falcons will be.

In the second quarter of the Falcons' game against the Carolina Panthers, the rookie RB crossed the goal line on an 11-yard pass reception.

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