Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori 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. Inside Tori's Notebook is sponsored by Microsoft Surface.
ALMOST TO THE END OF THIS THING -- I don't want to say it was five seconds after the Falcons beat the Cardinals on Sunday night that a certain phrase was uttered. Perhaps it was six seconds. Either way, when Younghoe Koo's short field goal went through the uprights, sealing Atlanta's 20-19 win over Arizona, the comments started rolling in.
"This is the worst thing that could have happened."
"Oh wow, they beat a lousy Cardinals team (insert heavy sarcasm here)."
"We absolutely should not have won that game in the big picture."
"That win just hurts our draft slot!"
Look, I get it. Your desire for a top-5 draft pick in 2023 is warranted. Any feelings you have about the Falcons win - and what it means for the future - are valid. They're valid because they're your feelings and I am not going to discount the way you feel.
In the same breath, you should not discount the way these players and coaches feel either, and their feeling is that they want to win. You're never going to hear a player in the locker room say they want to lose for a higher draft pick. Even if they did feel that way, how many times have you ever heard a player say it?
They're playing for their careers and their future. It's not their job to think about anything beyond that. But we can.
According to a Twitter thread from Fox Sports NFC South reporter Greg Auman, the Falcons (as well as the Panthers) are still looking at a potential top-10 draft pick in 2023.
The main takeaway is that the draft order is going to change significantly as the final week of the season comes and goes. We truly won't have an answer as to where the Falcons will be picking until the Week 18 games conclude.
So, there's no point worrying about it until then, because at this point, all there is is speculation.
What we can look at, though, is what we can take from the win. You may not want to do that, but it's necessary. As the game came to a close last night, and I saw the disheartened comments directed at a team that won, I started listing the things that I know I will take from this win.
Here's that list as it appears in my notebook:
- Desmond Ridder made progress on Sunday night in his third start. He was as comfortable as we've seen him in the pocket thus far. His command continues to impress, as does his cleanliness pre-snap. Despite the fumble on the snap in the first half, he did enough to put the Falcons in the position to ultimately win the game. He has one more game to put on tape for this coaching staff. He's made a step in every game. Let's not give up on this evaluation yet.
- The defense held their fifth-straight opponent to under 21 points scored in their individual matchups. In the last eight games, this defense has given up 20.5 points on average. That average drops to 19 points given up per game in their last five appearances. This defense has been holding its own in the back half of the 2022 season, and the win against the Cardinals was another example. Sure, the Cardinals were playing their fourth quarterback on the year, but still. You can't discount the average because of the circumstances. The defense has its deficiencies, and they are deficiencies that should be addressed this offseason, but for where they are right now, progress is evident despite their last of sack totals (which is the one defensive stat everyone seems to stick on).
- There is an obvious foundation of youth that can be built upon. This one went further than my notebook. It's what I wrote about postgame. I won't reiterate that story in this notebook breakdown, but you can read it here.
- Tyler Allgeier's emergence is really good for Cordarrelle Patterson. As the rookie running back has grown, matured and - most importantly - produced in 2022, it has allowed Arthur Smith the opportunity to play Patterson the way he likes to. Allgeier has morphed into the Falcons featured back. That's not bad news for Patterson. On the contrary, it's good news. Sunday's win showed Patterson's strengths as a versatile offensive weapon. The Falcons got away from that versatility because they had to. However, as long as Allgeier is playing the way he has been in the last month and a half, they won't have to. They can put Patterson and Allgeier on the field together. They can put Patterson in the backfield, or in the slot, or out wide. They did all of those things on Sunday, and Patterson's individual stat line was better for it. Patterson finished the game with exactly 42 rushing yards on nine carries and 42 receiving yards on six catches (he was targeted almost as many times as he was asked to carry the ball). This is the blueprint of what the pairing of Allgeier and Patterson should be moving forward into 2023.
- We know exactly what the Falcons need to prioritize this offseason. I wrote about this very idea after the Falcons loss to Baltimore on Christmas Eve, and those priorities have only gotten clearer after another game and more conversations with coaches. Dean Pees needs interior pass rushers as well as a cornerback opposite A.J. Terrell. If that's Casey Hayward coming back from a season-ending shoulder injury, great. But it has to be someone. Smith needs a few more pass-catchers and (potentially) some fill-ins at certain spots along the offensive line. The expectation should be that the Falcons extend Chris Lindstrom this offseason, but what of Kaleb McGary at right tackle, and what would the Falcons like to do at left guard? As for skill players, getting Kyle Pitts back will only help, but the Falcons need another vertical threat to pair with Pitts and London as well as what Patterson can do as a pass-catcher. The skill positions are not far away, they could just use one more piece. We can spend the offseason debating what that piece is.
All of this I took from Sunday's win.
I know there are many who probably didn't even make it to the bottom of this notebook. I get it. Again, I don't blame you. The Falcons are out of playoff contention. You want to get to the offseason because its one the organization has been looking forward to since Smith and Terry Fontenot took over. They have cap space to play with and a (potential) top-10 draft pick.
We're not there yet, though.
We take a monochrome look at the game against the Arizona Cardinals on January 1, 2023.