Falcons’ collapse not surprising but still painful for Smith
ATLANTA (AP) — From 4-4 to 5-10, the Atlanta Falcons have collapsed in the second half of a season that was seen as a rebuilding year from the start.
Even so, that doesn’t take away the sting of losing for coach Arthur Smith, who is 12-20 in nearly two years on the job.
“Ultimately, it’s about winning, but you can look at a lot of progress being made,” Smith said after Saturday’s 17-9 loss at Baltimore. “Our guys are a resilient group. We need to win. I’m thankful we have another opportunity next week at home.”
When the Falcons bring a four-game losing streak into a likely half-full Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face Arizona on Sunday, they will do so knowing they haven’t had a winning record at any point since the end of the 2017 season. They have missed the playoffs for five straight years and have lost six of seven, even with a change at quarterback from Marcus Mariota to rookie Desmond Ridder.
All this gloom hasn’t affected Smith’s outlook on the final two games of the season. Seven of Atlanta’s losses have been by 10 points or fewer. Five of the last seven losses were one-possession games.
“There has been a ton of progress,” Smith said. “It’s different from last year when we were in some one-score games, completely different team and different situations going back and looking at them. We’ve got to find a way to get over that hump.”
The Falcons will spend the next two weeks and plenty of time in the offseason evaluating whether Ridder, a third-round draft choice from Cincinnati, is the answer at quarterback. Four games as a starter is a small sample size, and Ridder has yet to show he can win in the NFL.
He hasn’t been terrible, either, completing 35 of 59 passes for 315 yards. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass but hasn’t been intercepted, either. His passer rating is a mediocre 73.8. Atlanta’s offense under Smith is run-first.
“I thought his decision-making was good, and he was pretty accurate,” Smith said after Ridder completed 22 of 33 passes for 218 yards against Baltimore. “I thought he made some big-time throws when the pressure got on him in the second half, and that’s what you want to see. He was calm and collected, and I thought he delivered the football.
“A couple things here and there that we have to look at down in the red zone. Short yardage and things like that. But I thought from the pocket presence against a quality defense that gives you a lot of looks, I thought he had pretty good poise.”
Rookie Tyler Allgeier, who led the team with 74 yards rushing on 18 carries against Baltimore, has developed into a solid starter for a fifth-round draft pick. Allgeier is hard to bring down once he hits a hole, and he’s shown durability, playing in every game except Week 1 and not missing practice. He leads the team with 817 yards rushing, and his 4.9 yards per carry is second.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The red-zone offense was abysmal. Four of Atlanta’s final five drives ended inside Baltimore’s 20-yard line, but the team was held without a touchdown.
Second-year safety Richie Grant led the defense with seven solo tackles and 10 total stops and is second on the team behind linebacker Rashaan Evans with 61 solo tackles and 106 total stops. Grant, who didn’t start for much of last year, has two interceptions, and his seven pass breakups are second on the team to A.J. Terrell’s eight.
Drake London, the eighth overall draft pick and the first receiver chosen, had a costly fumble for the second straight week. He refused to use the cold weather as an excuse. Last week’s game was indoors at New Orleans.
“I’m shooting my team in the foot, it’s as simple as that,” London said. “I’m the one who (messed) up. I’m the one who keeps putting the ball on the floor, and that shouldn’t be the case. I want to make sure that this team knows I’m surehanded, and right now, I’m not doing that. It definitely hurts me and kills me. All I can do is just learn from this.”
The Falcons didn’t report any new injuries after the Baltimore game.
6 — Atlanta’s position in next year’s draft if the season ended today.
Shore up the red zone offense and get ready to host the 4-11 Cardinals on Sunday.
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