The Falcons have an early bye.
They should feel good heading into it earning a positive result against the New York Jets on Sunday.
They rode an all-around excellent first half to victory, surviving a bumpy final two periods to secure an essential win, in London, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Matt Ryan was awesome as a leader and on-field producer, Kyle Pitts flexed serious star power, the Falcons defense was solid when it mattered most and the team overcame serious adversity, both prior to the game and during it, to secure this win.
And, as important as anything, the Falcons found a way to close out a 27-20 victory over the Jets with an excellent, lead-sustaining fourth-quarter touchdown drive missing the week prior in the Washington loss. That shows that the Falcons are learning, progressing and continuing to fight, all important traits for this team.
Let's get to it. Here are three gut reactions to this result:
Falcons show great resilience after Washington loss
The Falcons should've beat Washington last week. Can't convince me otherwise. They let go of a late lead and let a golden opportunity to get a win slip. Then the 2021 Falcons had to hear all week about issues of the past that have nothing to do with this group or this coaching staff.
They brushed that off and found a way to get a win the next time out. They did so after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, without Russell Gage or Calvin Ridley, to play a game that kicked off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time.
Their effort wasn't perfect, even after a dominant start. Wire-to-wire dominance is rare in this league, and ultimately doesn't matter.
The Falcons got a win, an important one heading into the next section of their season
Head coach Arthur Smith put a good game plan together. The Falcons were able to run the ball well, especially in the first half, and they were opportunistic on defense.
There were still too many mistakes. Hayden Hurst's first-half fumble wasn't good. Mike Davis' second-half fumble lost in the red zone was worse. There were too many receiver drops.
There were times where the Jets struggled to execute, but the Falcons defense played a part in that.
Bottom line: It's always easier to fix issues after a win. It's always easier to make a long flight home and enjoy the bye week after a win. Disappointments can fester with an unwelcome result.
The Falcons should feel better about this win and their response to last week's disappointment. This team certainly has issues left to work out, but its fighting spirit is noteworthy. That's due in part to Smith and the Falcons' locker room leadership, which did a good job keeping the team focused despite opportunity to get distracted.
That never-quit mindset will allow them to keep progressing no matter what results come their way, and important trait for a team still trying to find itself.
Tight ends to the rescue
The Falcons entered Sunday's game depleted at the receiver.
No Calvin Ridley. No Russell Gage.
That's an obvious exaggeration. Losing those talents hurt the team. The Falcons are worse without them. But...
The team's tight ends picked up the slack. All three of them.
While Kyle Pitts has earned some headlines with his dominant play and his first NFL touchdown, Hayden Hurst and Lee Smith deserve some credit for standout play in the passing game.
All three guys contributed, going deep into triple-digit yardage as a group. Pitts and Hurst had touchdowns. Heck, they had 11 catches for 127 yards and two scores in the first half alone.
While Hurst's lost fumble hurt – scoring on that drive could've been an early dagger – it didn't slow the Falcons dominance.
Smith frequently used multiple tight end sets and integrated them well, as he always does, into the offensive game plan. There were a few times that Pitts was in some shockingly favorable matchups, including when he was covered by a defensive lineman on his touchdown catch.
Tajae Sharpe, Olamide Zaccheaus and Christian Blake were the primary receivers, though quarterback Matt Ryan preferred more established tight end options and running backs during important moments.
Consistency still missing
The Falcons were in complete control in the first half, but saw their grip loosen in the second half. Sustaining early play would've lead to a stress-free win, but that didn't happen. We ended up with another close contest in the fourth quarter, adding intrigue to a game that could've been relatively drama free.
It was the opposite, with the Jets closing within a field goal in the fourth quarter.
But, unlike last week, the Falcons found a way to finish on offense. They responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Mike Davis touchdown run. That was the series missing late against Washington, that could've closed that game out. They were able to do better this time around, which helped weather some second-half setbacks and put a win on the ledger.
Still, though, the Falcons must be better over four quarters. They haven't been solid for a full game yet, as they continue learning how to win and control and outcome.
Call for questions
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Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
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Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.