Falcons Still Tied For First in NFC South Despite Losing Record
ATLANTA (AP) — Nine games have revealed the Atlanta Falcons to be a team with limitations on defense and in their passing game.
That doesn’t mean they can’t compete in the woeful NFC South.
Second-year coach Arthur Smith has leaned on a steady running game that was strengthened by the return of starter Cordarrelle Patterson in Sunday’s last-second 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham had the last giveaway on a bizarre two-fumble play that helped set the stage for the Chargers’ winning field goal as time expired.
Despite the loss, the Falcons (4-5) are tied with Tampa Bay atop the NFC South. Atlanta plays at last-place Carolina on Thursday night.
The Falcons ran for 201 yards, but quarterback Marcus Mariota passed for only 129 yards with no touchdowns.
When Mariota provides dual-threat contributions as another running threat in a win, he looks like a good fit in Smith’s offense. When the Falcons lose, the coach faces more questions about giving rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder an opportunity to add a spark to the passing game.
Smith on Monday continued to stand behind Mariota. There are reasons for Smith to remain committed to the run-first philosophy. By holding the ball, the Falcons are protecting their defense.
Despite the modest passing numbers, the Falcons are the top-scoring team in the division.