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Inside Tori's Notebook: If one statistical category changed, how good could this Falcons team be? 

The defense continues to stand tall. Younghoe Koo remains clutch. With the offensive production increasing each week, how much could a no-turnover day affect how we feel about this team? 

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.


IN CONFLICT -- OK. The dateline for this notebook is a little dramatic, yes. But it's the only phrase that accurately describes the thoughts swirling in my head as I sit here in the aftermath of the Falcons' 16-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I'm battling with myself more than anything else. I'm weighing the things that I see with the things that I feel following the win that was a bit more difficult than it had to be.

Here's what I mean:

I can feel this 2023 Falcons team inching closer and closer to reaching the potential I had set for them going into this season. I weirdly wrote this down in my notebook as the Bucs tied things up with less than a minute to go in the game. (I know, weird timing, and don't ask me why I felt that specific feeling at that specific time).

This defense has been as potent as I expected. They've been so clutch and the players the Falcons acquired this offseason have made (and are still making) a difference. Younghoe Koo and the specialists continue to get their job done, too.

And I know before I even write this out that some of you may have a hard time believing me but, as each week passes, this Falcons offense is getting closer and closer to the fun, explosive unit Arthur Smith said they'd be in training camp.

Where the battle rages in my head is seeing that the Falcons have a turnover problem. It's a problem that, realistically, is not entirely on Desmond Ridder's shoulders. But, as the quarterback, he does play a role in it. It's not just on him, though, even with six turnovers in two games attached to his name on a stat sheet.

In the win over the Texans, pass catchers fumbled the ball, too. In the loss to the Commanders, Smith was adamant that miscommunication on all levels played a part in the turnovers and penalties. Against Tampa Bay, there's an argument to be made that the third and final fumble out the back of the endzone was the one which blame lays fully on Ridder. Whether you believe that or not is up to you and your interpretation. Regardless, these turnovers have accumulated and they're the reason I'm figuratively at war with myself.

More than see, I can feel what this team can be. But there are still indicators that I can see, and I can see them as plainly as I can see these words flying, one after the other, on the screen in front of me.

Through the last three games, this offense has been one of the most productive in the league. Yes, in the league. Through three games, the Falcons offense has amassed 1,250 total net yards. For reference, the Miami Dolphins (one of the most high-powered offenses playing right now) have 1,192 total net yards during that same time.

A key difference, though, is points scored. The Falcons have scored 53 points in three games. The Dolphins? Ninety. Turnovers play a role in this statistical difference. But let's take the turnover talk away for a second, because without the turnovers to his name, Ridder has played some of his best ball since returning from London following the Falcons' loss to the Jaguars.

He's not perfect. He has displayed growing pains. But he fights, and time and time again, Ridder has found a way to pull himself out of the quagmire of missed opportunities.

That, and this defense has been pretty dang good.

In the Falcons last three games, this defense continues to stand tall, even improving in some key categories (like sacks and turnovers in the last two games particularly). As the offense has accumulated yards and first downs, this defense has limited them. In each of the last three games, opposing offenses have not surpassed 100 rushing yards vs. the Falcons. In total, Atlanta's last three opponents are 3-for-8 (37.5%) in the red zone, and 12-of-35 on third down (34%). Beyond the last three games, no Falcons opponent has scored more than 24 points in a single game. They've given up one singular rushing touchdown all year.

They've been good. Really good.

And all of this is good, right? But look, I get it. You can't take the good without the not-so-good in this situation.

You can't talk about this offensive production without talking about the turnovers. You can't see Ridder's stat line without noticing the turnovers. That's why I am so frazzled in my own head, too, because I feel like this team is one statistical category away from being what it hoped it would be in 2023.

Like I said, the Falcons have to take better care of the ball. They have to be more consistent in critical moments. I still want to see more from this team in "the middle eight" (shoutout to those who read last week's notebook). Nothing I say here excuses the turnovers. Nothing I say here minimizes their impact. But does it help that the Falcons have shown improvement and productive impact elsewhere?

Are these turnovers fixable? I tend to think they are. And I can't help but think that if they do get fixed, if this team can still see this level of production without losing the ball and instead coming away with points? I think this is a team that can catch some people off guard and be fun to watch. But only -- only -- if we see change in this area while continuing to see consistency in the others.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Week 7.

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