A win is a win, right?
The Atlanta Falcons have much to clean up. Arthur Smith still has plenty to prove as a head coach despite his offensive success with the Tennessee Titans. As the for the defense?
But again, a win is a win, so the Falcons' 17-14 victory over the New York Giants will give fans something positive to talk about in the coming days. It also could be the start of a turnaround altogether.
Here's 10 observations from Sunday's action at Metlife Stadium.
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1. Matt Ryan steps up at right moment - It's something most fans don't want to hear, but it has to be brought up now. Is this the beginning of the end for Ryan,or is Smith's offensive strategy just challenging to learn?
Ryan finished 27 of 36 passing for 243 yards, but that number should have been higher. Atlanta averaged a mere 5.8 yards per pass attempt, yet at least three plays went for over 20 yards.
What truly mattered what Ryan's clutch factor. He led a 15-play drive that ate up over eight minutes of time, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown to Lee Smith to tie the game at 14.
It wasn't pretty, but his ability to maintain the time of possession helped put pressure on the Giants' offense.
2. Why No Pitts? - When drafted No. 4 overall in April, Kyle Pitts likely thought he would take over the Julio Jones role. Sure, he's a tight end by position, but a big-bodied receiver that can out-muscle defenders is exactly what Atlanta needed.
So, where was he the entire first half? His stat line: zero catches on zero targets for zero yards.
Pitts' impact was influential on a third-and-8 in the fourth quarter when Atlanta needed to convert to stay alive. His 25-yard reception on the team's final drive would set up Younghoe Koo's game-winning field goal, and was the second-longest pass of the afternoon.
Still, if drafting a tight end in the topfive, he best be producing top-five numbers. So far, two catches for 35 yards isn't going to cut from the play-calling side of things.
3. Ryan Makes History - A touchdown pass to wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus wasn't just special for the third-year target. Ryan now enters an elite group of gunslingers to reach the goal of 350 career passing touchdowns.
Ryan completed 14 of 20 passes for 110 yards and the touchdown in the first half. Meanwhile, a point after attempt from Koo gave Atlanta a 7-6 lead.
To put into perspective how special the touchdown was, other names to break the 350 barrier include Tom Brady (590), Drew Brees (571), Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508), Philip Rivers (421), Dan Marino (420), Aaron Rodgers (416), Ben Roethlisberger (398), and Eli Manning (366).
Three players are already in the Hall of Fame. How many of the remaining nine will one day be welcomed into Canton? Ryan's case for a bust only gets stronger.
4. Olamide Zaccheaus New WR No. 3? - Zaccheaus was a hot name to breakout during training camp as the team's new No. 3 target. So far, he's been quiet to begin the new season.
Maybe Sunday is the start of something new?
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Zaccheaus' 4-yard touchdown catch in the closing seconds of the second quarter gave life to the offense. He also recorded a pair of catches for 14 yards, both leading to scoring drives for the offense.
Maybe he's not Atlanta's No. 3 receiver just yet, but Zaccheaus' impact on Sunday showed there are more weapons outside Calvin Ridley and Pitts.
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5. Still Limited Run Game- What made Smith so appealing as a head coaching candidate was his ability to work a balanced offense. Then again, a more balanced approach helps when you have a 2,000-yard rusher in Derrick Henry as your lead back.
Mike Davis finished with a season-high 50 yards on the afternoon, but the team finished with less than 100 yards on the ground for the second-straight week. Cordarrelle Patterson, who isn't a running back or wide receiver, averaged just 2.9 yards on seven carries.
Smith's offense is at its peak when working the run game. So far, sub-par is likely the best word to describe it.
6. Cordarrelle Patterson MVP of September - No matter where you line him up, Patterson is electrifying when on the field. He's easily the team's MVP through the first weeks of the season, and could be the top new addition by the year's end.
The do-it-all offensive player recorded a team-high 102 total yards offensively on the day. Leading the way with six catches for 82 yards, four catches went for 10-plus yards, including a pair that went for 26 and 28, respectively.
Add in Patterson's 40 return yards and he did it all in the Meadowlands. Things you love to see; new players actually making plays, and Patterson has made plenty in three weeks thus far.
7. Third-and-short still a problem - Last season, the Titans' defense was one of the worst on stopping teams on third down. So far, the woes of the Music City defense followed Smith to Atlanta and put a curse on the offense.
On the team's first possession, a third-and-1 couldn't be converted from rookie QB Feleipe Franks to Patterson. The following drive, Ryan missed Ridley on a third-and-3. In the third quarter, Ryan missed Zaccheaus on a third-and-4.
Little things like that are difference from a close win and blowouts.
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8. Giants actually the better team? - Winning is great, but the Giants actually controlled most of the game. New York won the time of possession (31:51-28:09), passing yards (246-227), rushing yards (100-69) and first downs (21-18).
In fact, the only category Atlanta did win was fewer penalties. The Falcons has four against New York's eight, and each team had one turnover.
9. Cameron Nizialek's redemption - Last week against the Bucs, Nizialek was criticized for a pair of bad punts. It's a good thing he has a short memory.
Nizialek's 37-yard punt in the second quarter placed New York at their own 3-yard line. A three-and-out from New York's offense led to great field position for Ryan to connect with Zaccheaus just before the half.
Two other punts were fair catches inside the 20, while another one was fielded at the 12-yard line. Nizialek was pretty close to perfect minus the touchback following the opening drive.
10. In Koo We Trust - Once again, it's Koo's leg that provided a win. He remains a fan favorite and one of the biggest success stories in recent memories with the club.
After playing in the AAF for the Atlanta Legends, Atlanta made him its kicker for the 2019 season. Low and behold, he's been near flawless in since arriving to the professional level, making 88.5 percent and 94.4 percent, respectively, of his field goals the last two seasons.
With his 40-yard kick, Koo remains a perfect on three attempts this season. He also hasn't missed a point after attempt. Woo for Koo and woo for the Falcons winning a game under the new regime.
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