Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori McElhaney re-opens her game notebook to look back at her notes, questions and observations from the Falcons most recent game. Tori breaks down her thoughts and gives her analysis on what happened and why it's notable.
READY TO MOVE ON, ARE THEY? -- After the Falcons 20-6 loss to Detroit, Drake London said what, one can assume, everyone was feeling.
"Honestly," London said, "I think we just got punched in the face today."
More than any note I made in the margins of my notebook during Sunday's loss, this comment in the postgame locker room means more. That's why we're breaking protocol this week by closing the notebook and focusing on what London said. His comment matters because the Falcons (particularly the offense) find themselves at a crossroads. One option to get back up, figure things out and move on. Be better for taking the punch. The other path leads to the same problem the Falcons had in 2022: Being one-dimensional as an offense.
Detroit gave teams in the league a blueprint for how to beat the Falcons. The Lions clogged up the Falcons running lanes, forcing the Falcons to air it out. And when the Falcons did so, the Lions brought significant pressure, sacking Desmond Ridder seven times after only recording one sack in their first two games prior.
Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier had 17 carries Sunday for 45 yards on the ground. The Falcons ran 65 offensive plays against the Lions. Those limited carries for the Falcons backs surprised many, perhaps no one more so than the Detroit defenders who were prepping and planning for them all week.
Nothing expresses this sentiment more than what Aidan Hutchinson said in the Lions locker room.
"I'm surprised they got away from it more," Hutchinson said of the Falcons run game. "I thought they we're going to – especially in the second half – get back to (it). That's their foundation, that bounce run game. I thought they were going to get back to it, but they didn't. So, I don't know. I thought we did a good job stopping the runs that we got. But it was not the game I expected it to be."
When nothing is working for the Falcons, last year and the first two games of this year showed that the run game tends to be the one thing that breaks through. It didn't in Detroit. So, the Falcons have a decision ahead of them: Stay the same or evolve. Head coach Arthur Smith has said time and time again that the best teams in the league are the ones that evolve. Can the Falcons be one of those teams that sees what Detroit was able to exploit and make the necessary changes to ensure that doesn't happen as significantly in the future?
The good news is that I do think the Falcons have a better opportunity for offensive evolution in 2023 than they did in 2022. And truth be told, sometimes evolution isn't drastic. Sometimes its as simple as executing more efficiently. For the Falcons, that may be what evolution looks like. The offensive weapons are there. Ridder showed in the first two games of 2023 that he can get the ball in their hands. As the seven sacks showed, pass protection needs to be better. On a few of those sacks in Detroit, Ridder was under pressure before the play itself even had time to develop.
The main issue the Falcons keep bringing up in 2023, though, is that there is an obvious lack of offensive rhythm happening right now. I wrote about that rhythm after the Falcons first win of the season against Carolina. It was missing then, too.
"The Falcons did win on Sunday. They did, ultimately, find their tune," I wrote in the aftermath of the Falcons first win. "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."
Here we are two games later and the Falcons haven't found their offensive key. Against Green Bay, there were moments of the offensive rhythm lacking. Against Detroit, it was throughout the game's entirety. I stand by what I wrote in Week 1: For the Falcons to be the best they can be, the offense has to find its rhythm. The Falcons know that, too.
"It's us trying to understand each other, understand what we got," Robinson said of the offense. "I think we have a lot of talent on this offense, but we need to get in that rhythm and get it together."
Robinson added that the Falcons can't let this loss stand as a set back for anything they want to do moving forward, which goes back to the main point of this entire article: The Falcons got punched in the face in Detroit. London said it and Robinson agreed. This moment can be a turning point for the Falcons if they let it.
It can either be a catalyst for change, or it can be a marker of the same thing that plagued the Falcons in 2022 happening again in 2023 despite the plethora of changes this team made this offseason. The hope is that it's the former.
"I'm glad we got that feeling," Robinson said of the punch of Detroit. "Now we know that we can't do that no more."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions during Week 3.