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Falcons: Are Penalty Problems Fixable?

The Atlanta Falcons committed 12 penalties in the 2021 season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles

Whether it was from the lack of preseason snaps for the starters or some other reason, the Atlanta Falcons weren't particularly sharp in Week 1. They committed 12 penalties, which was second most in the entire league during opening weekend.

Interestingly, the Falcons' opponent -- the Philadelphia Eagles -- led the NFL with 14 fouls in Week 1. Clearly, it's possible to overcome penalties to win, but for a young team like the Falcons, it is obviously best to avoid giving the opposition free yardage.

But how many of Atlanta's penalties for the first week of the season are fixable? Let's take a look at all 12 accepted fouls.

1 - Personal Foul; Late hit out of bounds (Erik Harris)

Of all the penalties the referees called against the Falcons on Sunday, I disagreed with this one the most. Eagles receiver Quez Watkins still appeared in bounds when Harris nailed him along the sidelines.

Nevertheless, the penalty, which came on Atlanta's first defensive snap, moved Philadelphia to the 50-yard line.

Despite maybe not being a penalty, this is a foul that's very fixable and should be avoided if Arthur Smith and Dean Pees instill discipline in the defense.

2 - Illegal Formation (Kyle Pitts)

The rookie tight end lined up on the line of scrimmage, covering the tight end on the play. This was a key penalty, as it happened at the Eagles 2-yard line.

Maybe this can be chalked up as a rookie mistake, but assuming Pitts played a fair amount on the outside at Florida, (he surely did during training camp) he should have known better. Then again, it's very fixable.

3. False Start (Drew Dalman)

A snap later at the Eagles 7-yard line, Dalman started too early. This moved the Falcons into a goal-to-go situation at the 12, which obviously isn't ideal.

Dalman's false start and the illegal formation penalties were killers in Sunday's game. They should have been avoided, and they greatly impacted the complexion of the first half.

4. Offensive Holding (Kaleb McGary)

On the first play of Atlanta's third drive, the Falcons moved backwards 10 yards due to a holding. Possessions starting with penalties is not good football. Granted, the Falcons were able to overcome this penalty and move the chains once before punting.

Holding, though, is going to happen, especially when the Falcons play an elite defensive front this season.

5. False Start (Jalen Mayfield)

Four snaps after McGary's holding foul, there was more early movement on the Falcons offensive line. Of the 12 accepted Atlanta penalties, four of them were on the offensive line.

That's not a recipe for offensive success.

6. Intentional Grounding (Matt Ryan)

Although technically a foul on the quarterback, the offensive line should shoulder part of the blame for this one as well. Even though Ryan avoided a sack until the fourth quarter, there was too much pressure on him throughout the game.

On this play, no one was open either, and Ryan tried to avoid a sack by throwing the ball away. The loss of 14 yards on the play counts as a penalty, but essentially, it was a sack.

READ MORE: Falcons RB Mike Davis Protects his OL

7. False Start (Jalen Mayfield)

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This time, the false start happened inside Atlanta's own 10-yard line, but it proved just as crucial. It helped the Eagles force a punt by the two-minute warning and allowed Philadelphia enough time to drive the field for a touchdown before halftime.

Arthur Smith seemed angry about the pre-snap penalties during the postgame press conference. It will be interesting to see if Mayfield continues to start going forward.

"You're going to have penalties, guys. No one in this league is coaching to hold. That doesn't happen and those are fouls within the play of the game," said Arthur Smith.

"It's the stuff pre-snap, the false starts, the things you try to pride yourself on."

8. Illegal Formation (Marlon Davidson)

Of all the penalties, this one is probably the dumbest and thus the easiest to fix. Davidson lined up in the wrong spot on the extra-point attempt. That sounds like an innocent penalty on paper, but it was far from it because Philadelphia elected to accept the foul and go for a 2-point conversion at the 1-yard line.

The Eagles converted and thus led at halftime by nine instead of eight. A lot of penalties indirectly lead to points. This one directly led to the Falcons trailing by two possessions at halftime instead of one.

9. Offensive Pass Interference (Hayden Hurst)

Atlanta's next two penalties were "pick plays" on offense during the team's second possession of the third quarter. Both were very frustrating but the correct calls.

Hurst and Calvin Ridley made their "rubs" too obviously. There was really no need to make contact with the defender either. This foul helped ruin Atlanta's chances of finding an offensive rhythm in the second half.

10. Offensive Pass Interference (Calvin Ridley)

On the same possession, Mike Davis caught a 21-yard swing pass to convert a third-and-5, but Ridley's penalty nullified the gain. It was close, but the replay revealed Ridley was blocking before Davis made the catch.

If Hurst and Ridley had just gotten in the defender's way like Zach Ertz did on the game's first touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith, the Falcons could have strung together some first downs on this drive in the third quarter.

11. Illegal Block (Javian Hawkins)

Special teams penalties are killers because they really impact field position. This foul moved the Falcons from their 31-yard line back to the 18.

12. Intentional Grounding (Matt Ryan)

Yet again, Ryan was under pressure and had to throw the ball away. He couldn't scramble out of the pocket, so the Falcons lost 10 yards and a down due to an intentional grounding.

Which ones are fixable?

Teams never want to take dumb penalties, but the good news about dumb penalties is they are fixable. The personal foul, illegal formations, offensive pass interferences, and false starts made up eight of the penalties, and all can be fixed.

The problem will be along the Atlanta offensive line. Will that unit improve enough to pass block better or are the Falcons doomed to commit a lot of holding and intentional grounding penalties this season?

False starts are fixable, but they also could be the result of offensive linemen feeling the need to get a really good jump on the snap against a great defender. 

Committing three false starts in front of the home crowd is also not a good sign.

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