ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons were down by 2 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Week 2 matchup with the Green Bay Packers. On third-and-3, quarterback Desmond Ridder scrambled for the first down. He was close. However, after a challenge flag was thrown by head coach Arthur Smith, review showed Ridder was short of the line to gain. Inches separated Atlanta from a crucial first down.
The Falcons had a game-changing decision to make.
With 2:08 remaining in the game, did they send out Younghoe Koo for the field goal to potentially take the lead, hoping their defense could come up with its third straight stop? Or did they risk it all?
If Atlanta went for it and didn't get the first down, giving the ball back to Green Bay with the lead and plenty of time to extend it, Smith's decision would have been met with vehement anger. That anger would have likely come from the fan base in the moment at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It also could have very likely come on football talk shows in the days to come, as commentators scrutinized the decision to go for it instead of taking the points.
To be conservative and to not risk it, though, that would go against what Smith says the Falcons are at their core.
"We don't play into our fears," Smith said after the game.
As the Falcons offense ran back onto the field for the fourth-and-inches play, the words used to describe the moment were: Risky. Treacherous. Dangerous. Gutsy. And if they didn't convert? Perhaps the words would have been: Stupid. Dumb. A what-were-they-thinking moment.
None of those words were the ones Smith, or the Falcons as a whole, used as the play unfolded.
When the Falcons offense ran back out onto the field for the fourth-and-inches play, the words Smith used to describe the moment were: Belief. Trust. Conviction. Confidence. And -- of course -- aggressive.
"I felt good about the play and the way we were blocking," Smith said. "Whether it was going to Bijan (Robinson) or Tyler (Allgeier) in that situation, I had a lot of confidence that they were going to get the first (down). That's the belief."
As the play call came in from the sideline, those are the words the players on the field clung to.
"Once I got the call," offensive tackle Jake Matthews said, "we were raring to go."
Said Robinson: "Those dudes were like, 'We're about to get the first down.' They had no doubt in their mind that we weren't going to get it."
Said Ridder, too: "It was obviously trust. It's trust in seeing that throughout the week we put in the work. We'd executed that play over and over and over again."
And so the play began.
Ridder, from the 22-yard line, took the snap and quickly tossed the ball 3 yards backward to Robinson. The right side of the offensive line crunched the Packers' defensive line toward the middle of the field. Jonnu Smith swiped an in-coming defender just enough to land him on the ground, making room for Robinson just beyond the right hash. Robinson then did was he does best: He ran, making a defender miss along the way.
Robinson and the Falcons needed inches in that moment. They got 7 yards instead, along with another chance to bleed the clock.
A few more plays followed this fourth-down conversion. Green Bay was forced to burn its remaining timeouts, and Atlanta ultimately sent Koo out for a short field goal to take the lead with less than a minute to go in the game. It was a lead they would hold onto.
So, the trust, the conviction, the belief? All of it that Smith talked about postgame? All of it that led to that fourth-and-inches play call? It's what ultimately helped push the Falcons toward a 25-24 victory Sunday.
It's a trust, conviction and belief that echoed into the locker room after the game.
"It shows that he has a lot of confidence in us, and we have the most confidence in him as well," Matthews said of Smith's play-calling. "That was exciting getting that fourth down and finding a way to win."
Said Robinson: "It shows that (Smith) has confidence in us, and he trusts us in those situations. No matter where we're at, what we're trying to do, it gives us a lot of confidence moving forward if we're ever in that situation again."
Said Ridder, too: "That's just trust and belief in all 11 guys that are out there on the field, that they're going to do their job."
So, why did Smith go for it on fourth-and-inches? Why did he make the risky decision instead of the perceived easy one? Why did he go with the option that could have cost the Falcons the game if it went awry?
"There was a lot of conviction. We felt great about the call but also about the guys," he said. "That's why."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers during Week 2.