The Atlanta Falcons lost on Sunday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-25. The lopsided score betrayed a good effort from Atlanta, which found itself down just three in the fourth quarter before a pair of Tampa Bay interceptions returned for touchdowns blew the game open.
After a terrible performance in the first week of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Falcons showed improvement.
But they also showed they have a long way to go. Here are five things that stood out from the Falcons vs. Buccaneers.
1. The Offensive Line Improved
Granted the bar was set incredibly low last week against the Eagles, but the offensive line improved from awful to just bad against against Tampa Bay.
Quarterback Matt Ryan used a lot of three-step drops and quick releases to keep the pressure off of him for most of the game and was only sacked once on 46 pass attempts. He was hit seven times, but most of the real pressure came in the fourth quarter when Atlanta was forced into obvious passing situations.
2. The Offensive Line Isn't Good Enough
This isn't a revelation, but the Falcons are below average at right tackle, center and left guard. They're only average at left tackle and right guard.
Left guard Jalen Mayfield is a rookie. Center Matt Hennessy is in his second year, but right tackle Kaleb McGary is in his fourth season with Atlanta. He is arguably the biggest disappointment on the offense right now.
The Falcons rushed for only 55 yards on 20 carries (2.8 per), and they couldn't protect Ryan in deeper drops leading to a lot of short passes underneath the coverage. Ryan averaged 8.5 yards per completion against Tampa, and he's never averaged below 10.3 yards per completion for a season in his career.
The lack of running game and short passing game is a direct reflection of the weakness of the Falcons offensive line.
3. The Falcons Need Help on the Defensive Line Too
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees likes to generate pressure with multiple looks on defense, but Atlanta is woefully undermanned in the trenches in their base 3-4 front.
Grady Jarrett is a two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, but he's been limited as a defensive end in the 3-4. He was shut out last week against the Eagles and registered just four tackles against Tampa Bay.
The nose guard in a 3-4 is usually a hulking, mountain of a man, but Atlanta's Tyeler Davison weighs 309 pounds. By comparison the Buccaneers nose guard Vita Vea checks in at 347 pounds.
Second-year pro Marlon Davidson had a sack against the Buccaneers and showed flashes, but until he's more consistent, it's Grady Jarrett by himself on the Falcons front.
That's not enough.
4. Cordarrelle Patterson is a Weapon
We referred to Patterson as the Falcons' secret weapon during camp. He's not a secret after his game against the Buccaneers.
Lining up as a running back, Patterson had seven carries for 11 yards and a touchdown, as well as five catches for 58 yards and another score.
He's big, fast, and fluid with the ball in his hands, and the former wide receiver is a mismatch out of the backfield.
5. The New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars are Atlanta's Competition
It's hard to find many victories on the schedule when the team is out-manned on both lines of scrimmage. Atlanta went toe-to-toe with a red-hot defending Super Bowl champion on Sunday, but were clearly outclassed.
It's not too early to think just how high a draft pick the Falcons could get next season. The Falcons host the New York Jets on Oct. 10 and the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 28.
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The outcome of those games could go a long way to decide which team has the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Falcons are at the New York Giants on Sunday. Both teams are 0-2, New York played well against Washington and will be favored against Atlanta.
Like Tampa Bay, New York played on Thursday night and will have three extra days of rest and preparation for its home game against Atlanta.
The Falcons need all the help they can get this season, and even the schedulers seemed to have stacked the odds against them in 2021.