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Inside Tori's Notebook: On Kyle Pitts and A.J. Terrell's bounce back, Marcus Mariota's performance in win vs. Seattle

Plus we take a look at how Grady Jarrett changed the Seattle rushing attack early in the game. 

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.

BACK IN THE A -- Well, I've returned from an eight-day trip to the west coast! As have the Falcons, and they come bearing their first win of the 2022 season.

The 27-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks was a doozy, but a fun doozy nonetheless.


So, let's waste no time in taking one final look at the win before turning the page to the week ahead. The grind never stops, ya know?

Bend don't break

I wrote this in the final quarter of Sunday's game, and it was essentially the main thought I had about the Falcons throughout the majority of said game. They gave a lot to Seattle, sure. But when it came down to it, they didn't give more than they took.

I think this thought applies fairly well when considering what we saw from the Falcons defense on Sunday.

The Seahawks averaged 6.1 yards a play against the Falcons. Not gonna lie, that's significant. However, even in that average, the Falcons defense held the line that mattered most, which was the goal line.

Seattle was 2-for-5 in the red zone. They had to settle for three field goals with that 40 percent touchdown conversion rate. In total, though, they had 420 yards of offense on Sunday in comparison to the Falcons 386. So, what does this tell us? That the Falcons defense did indeed lock down inside the 20 yard line.

Truth be told, this is a philosophy of Dean Pees that he has spoken about before on a few occasions. He's said before that he doesn't really care too much about how many yards an opposing offense racks up. He cares about how much they score. This is mirrored in what we saw from this Falcons defensive unit on Sunday.

They bent, sure, but when all was said and done they did not break.


I'm not going to say I told you so

Just kidding. I am.

Last week, an entire section of my notebook was dedicated to Kyle Pitts and A.J. Terrell's production. Remember what I wrote then?

"I get it. Trust me, I get it why people are so worried about the first two games performance and production (or lack there of) by Pitts and Terrell. Yes, Pitts' lack of targets against the Rams was a shock to the system. And yes, the touchdowns scored with Terrell in coverage are surprising. However, I am not ready to write them off. Not in the slightest."

I hope now that we saw Pitts and Terrell perform the way they did this Sunday you can take a breath.

Like Arthur Smith said it would, the ball found Pitts. He finished the afternoon with five catches on eight targets for 87 receiving yards.

Terrell also performed well on Sunday, and Smith had high praise for him, too.

"There he was on an island again today and you talk about growth and improvement?" Smith said after the game. "Those guys aren't going to hide."

Like Pitts on the offensive side of the ball, Terrell did his part in defensive coverage, too. Terrell finished the game with six tackles and three passes defended. The Falcons put Terrell on an island with DK Metcalf consistently throughout the game, and because of this, Terrell was targeted 11 times. He gave up only six catches. According to PFF, Terrell's opponent's catch percentage was around 54 percent on Sunday, which is closer to where we saw his numbers last year.

All this to say you can breathe again when it comes to Pitts and Terrell. They're quite alright.

Grady Jarrett locked in

I'm going to be honest, I wrote this note towards the end of the game. However, as I look back, I noticed I could have written this at any point in time during that game.

Grady Jarrett was doing Grady Jarrett things on Sunday, obviously. His fourth quarter sack essentially helped seal the win for Atlanta. I do think, though, that there was something that went unnoticed about Jarrett's performance on Sunday. It had to do with what he did stuffing the run.

Smith was candid after the game in saying both the Seahawks and Falcons came into the matchup wanting to rack up the rushing yards.

"They wanted to run the ball today. So did we, and we were the last team standing," Smith said after the game. "So, yeah, I'm proud of our guys."

We've already discussed Cordarrelle Patterson's role in this. Heck, I wrote my entire post-game story about CP. Now I want to talk about Jarrett's role on the other side of the ball.

Atlanta Falcons players react after a turnover during the second half against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field in Seattle, Washington on Sunday, September 25, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

The Seahawks ran the ball very well in their very first offensive drive of the game. In total, 40 of their 112 total rushing yards came in that drive alone. The run game was working for Seattle. That is, until they tried to go back to it in their second drive, and then again in their third.

The difference? 40 rushing yards turned into -1 yards because of Jarrett.

Through the second and third offensive drive of Seattle, two of the three designed runs were blown up by Jarrett. He dropped Rashaad Penny for a loss of three yard first, before doing the same thing to Geno Smith when he tried to tuck it and run on second and two in the next series. Jarrett also dropped the quarterback for a loss of three.

After that, Seattle tried to go back to the run on a few occasions as the game went on, even chipping away just a little bit in the third quarter. They never had too much success in doing so, though, and one can't help but think Jarrett played a role in that.

Tori McElhaney uses a Microsoft Surface during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, August 27, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

Is this the best we've seen Marcus Mariota look?

Mariota had just led a nine-play drive in the middle of the second quarter when I wrote this. In said drive, he converted two third downs with a 26-yard pass to Olamide Zaccheaus and a 19-yard pass to Pitts. This coming after he found Drake London for a 30-yard pick up to begin the drive.

And look, we can talk all day long about the issues there were. The end-of-half interception (that Smith took the blame for) and the end-of-game fumble (that Mariota himself took the blame for) to name a couple. When you look at the game's entirety, though, you see a quarterback that had solid command of his offense and led a balanced offensive operation for the Falcons.

It was - arguably - the best collective performance of Mariota we've seen through three games. Of course, that doesn't exclude the issues we did see, but it does help us see the bigger picture.

Mariota finished the game 13-of-20 through the air. He had 229 passing yards, and averaged 11.5 yards per attempt. He didn't have the rushing yards we're used to seeing from him, but when looking back you could tell that Seattle's defense did respect his scrambling ability in their alignments.

At the end of the day, the Falcons averaged 7.1 yards a play on Sunday. Mariota plays a large role in that production whether some people want to admit it or not.

We take a monochrome look at the win over the Seattle Seahawks on September 25, 2022.


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