For the second consecutive week, Atlanta’s offense struggled to find the end zone.
In the Falcons’ 23-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, Arthur Smith’s team could only muster one touchdown in 57 plays despite getting 17 first downs and controlling the ball for a shade over 27 minutes.
Much of the blame for Atlanta’s struggles could be pinned on quarterback Desmond Ridder, who threw a pick-6 and was sacked four times in the loss to the Jaguars (2-2). But in Monday’s press conference, Smith said the Falcons’ (2-2) offense has to find a rhythm earlier in games after scoring just three first-half points the last two weeks.
“We’ve got to find a way to start faster,” Smith said. “There’s different things we’ve looked at schematically in what you’re calling, and what you’re doing differently, so we have to get that solved so we’re not in a 10-nothing hole.”
In addition to a quicker start, Smith reiterated that there will not be a quarterback change as Atlanta gears up for a home game with the surging Houston Texans (2-2) on Sunday afternoon.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t be sitting, pontificating about what went on in the game if we were making a change,” Smith said.
Ridder threw two interceptions and passed for just 73 yards in the first half against Jacksonville. But his play in the second half (completed 10 of 17 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown) showed Smith how his second-year quarterback could handle adversity.
“That’s what you had to find out,” Smith said. “You go into a game like that and those things happen in the first half, you got to find out: sink or swim. To his credit, he came out firing. There wasn’t hesitancy. I don’t care what position you play — in any high-performance job, high-pressure job — you start to get hesitant, bad deal. So, you found out after some real adversity what he was about.”
In the upcoming game against the Texans, Ridder and the rest of his teammates will have to perform well to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Houston has beaten Jacksonville (37-17) and Pittsburgh (30-6) in consecutive weeks and is led by dynamic rookies C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson Jr. and Henry To’oTo’o.
Stroud is currently fourth in the NFL in passing yards (1,212) and has thrown six touchdowns without an interception. In Week 4’s win over the Steelers, he completed 16 of 30 passes for 306 yards and two TDs.
To’oTo’o leads Houston in tackles (27) and has been a force at linebacker. Defensive end and former Alabama teammate Anderson has 15 tackles and a sack for a Texans defense that’s ranked 11th in the league in scoring (19.8 points per game).
Atlanta’s defense enters this week’s game ranked 10th in scoring defense (19.3 ppg), seventh in total defense (290.8 yards per game) and fifth in pass defense (176.2 ypg).
–Falcons safety Jessie Bates III is currently tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions. He leads Atlanta in tackles (32) and forced fumbles (two).
–Cordarrelle Patterson suited up for the first time this season against Jacksonville but played sparingly. Patterson, who is playing the “Joker” role in Atlanta’s offense, could be primed for more playing time against Houston.