Cover 9@9: How will Falcons rebound from adversity?

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) huddles with the team during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) huddles with the team during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Credit: AP

(Here’s our weekly nine items at 9 a.m. Wednesday on the Atlanta Falcons, otherwise known as the Cover 9@9 blog!)

1. The no-spin zone: After the 40-point blowout Sunday at the Cowboys, all eyes were on first-year coach Arthur Smith.

How he dealt with the loss would help to define the rest of the season.

“I think he’s been good,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I mean, there’s not a whole lot of panic or a whole lot of change in emotion.”

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Ryan never has been in a game as lopsided over his NFL career. The last time the Falcons were blasted by 40 points or more was in 2004, when they were pummeled 56-10 by the Chiefs. That Falcons team advanced to the NFC Championship game.

“When you get back in after the game, there’s really nothing great you can say in those situations, and so he didn’t say much just that we need to get back to work,” Ryan said. “Put that one behind us quickly. Learn from it and you know, get ourselves ready to go this Thursday, but he’s been great.”

The Falcons have a lot of young players and first-time starters. How will they attempt to rebound.

“I think anytime you go through adversity, you see what people are made of,” Ryan said. “Obviously last week - You know we’re still 4-5. I’ve been in worse situations for sure. It was an ugly game, but it’s just one that you will find out about guys the way we come in, the way we get prepared, the way we get ready to go on a short week. Hopefully, the way we perform. Hopefully, we’ll find out a lot of good things about guys.”

Ryan has had to bounce back before, but never from such a flogging.

“Yeah, I think the ability to bounce back, to come back in with the right mind-set,” Ryan said. “There are traits that you see from people early on during the season, after a couple of tough losses come back and continuing to work the right way.”

He’s expected his teammates to be battle-ready for the Patriots.

“I think those are things that you hang your hat on, and so I do think there’s positives that can be drawn from that. You learn from those situations and you try and be better for it moving forward, but I think we’ll be fine,” Ryan said. “It’s never fun to lose the way we did, but we’ve got a lot of mentally tough guys in our locker room and guys that just continue to go work and that’s what you have to do as a professional.”

2. Pitts has a big fan in New England: Patriots coach Bill Belichick, in an interview on the Greg Hill Show on WEEI in Boston, praised Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts.

“This guy (Kyle), I thought last year in the draft, just watching him, he’s phenomenal,” Belichick said. “He’s big. He’s fast. He’s got great hands and adjusts to the ball. Makes tough catches. Savvy route-runner, can get open. Very hard to match up against.

“I was reading through some of the Atlanta comments and you hear them comparing him to a cross between Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones, and I’d say that’s about right. That’s what it looks like. This guy is one of the superstars of the NFL already.”

3. Odds: The Patriots are 6.5-point favorites over the Falcons on

4. Series history: This will be the 15th meeting. The Falcons lead the series 8-6. The Patriots won the last meeting, 23-7 on Oct. 22, 2017.

5. Tale of the tape: Here’s the 2021 statistical rankings for the Falcons and Patriots:

Falcons Patriots

19.8 (25) Pts/Game 27.5 (7)

324.2 (25) Tot Off. 356.2 (15)

82.9 (29) Net Rush Yds/Game 114.5 (15)

241.3 (15) Net Pass Yds/Game 241.7 (14)

28:35 (25) Poss Avg. 30:39 (13)

29.2 (31) Opp Pts/Game 17.7 (2)

368.3 (22) Opp Tot Off. 328.0 (6)

122.1 (21) Opp Rush Yds/Game 107.9 (14)

246.2 (16) Opp Pass Yds/Game 220.1 (8)

-5 (26t) Turnover Differential +3 (9t)

6. Meyers makes it: Quarterback Mac Jones’ top receiver is Jakobi Meyers, who played at Arabia Mountain High and N.C. State.

Meyers, who was passed over in the 2019 NFL draft, leads the Patriots with 50 catches for 483 yards and a touchdown. Kendrick Bourne has 33 catches for 520 yards and three touchdowns.

Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith were added in free agency over the offseason. Henry signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal.

Jonnu Smith, who formerly played with the Titans under Falcons coach Arthur Smith, received a four-year $50 million.

“They went out and spent a lot of money in free agency,” Smith said. “They (have) a really talented defense. They’re physical, they’re going to jam you.”

Henry, the Patriots’ main red-zone threat, caught two touchdowns against the Browns and has seven on the season.

Jones is making good use of his weapons.

“They’re playing really efficient on offense,” Smith said. “They’re asking the quarterback; he’s going to make the right read for them. They’re playing really well as a team.”

7. Stout linebackers: The Patriots defense is led by linebackers Matthew Judon, Ja’ Whaun Bentley, Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower. Judon has 9.5 sacks, which is fourth in the league.

The Patriots have the second-rated defense in points allowed, at 17.7 per game, and sixth-rated unit in yards allowed, at 328 yards per game.

“I think the one thing they don’t get enough credit for is how physical they are,” Smith said. “You know, even the runs. I mean, you watch them play right now and they’re doing a heck of a job. They’re as physical as any team.”

8. Dugger is doing well: The secondary is anchored by second-year safety Kyle Dugger, who’s played at Whitewater High and at Lenoir-Rhyne. He has three interceptions and 64 tackles.

Dugger was lightly recruited coming out of high school, but developed into one of the top safeties in the Division II ranks. The Patriots selected him in the second round of the 2020 draft.

He was the AJC’s fifth-rated safety in the 2020 draft.

9. Depth chart: Falcons running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has an ankle injury and likely won’t play Thursday night against New England.

The Falcons have contended that he was not injured in the game Sunday against the Cowboys, but he officially was limited at practice Monday. No injury was announced during the game.

The Falcons have options at running back in Wayne Gallman and practice-squad players Qadree Ollison and Caleb Huntley.

Patterson doesn’t have a replacement on the depth chart at kickoff returner. Punt returner Avery Williams might be the best option.

On the defense, the team lists lineman Ta’Quon Graham ahead of Anthony Rush. But since Rush is playing and Graham has been inactive, we moved Rush ahead of Graham below.

Patterson didn’t play in the second half against Dallas.

“Same reason I took Matt (Ryan) out once we realized (that) we (have) to play Thursday night,” Smith said. “Mathematically, after the first couple of possessions, CP, he wanted to go back in there. But then we’ll have to see throughout the week. At that point, you got to make the best decision for your team.

“Come out the first drive the second half, you know, two drops, come back the next one, get something going, we get picked and get hit and picked again. I wasn’t going to keep the quarterback in there. ... That’s not smart for this football team and the rest of the season.”

Here’s the Falcons’ official depth chart for the Patriots’ game:


WR - Tajae Sharpe, Christian Blake, (Calvin Ridley on the NFI list)

TE - Kyle Pitts, Lee Smith

LT - Jake Matthews, Jason Spriggs

LG - Jaylen Mayfield, Josh Andrews

C - Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman

RG - Chris Lindstrom, Drew Dalman

RT – Kaleb McGarry, Jason Spriggs, Colby Gossett

TE - Hayden Hurst, *Keith Smith (Has lineup as traditional TE), *Feleipe Franks (was part of TE/QB package vs. Giants)

WR - Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby

RB - Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Wayne Gallman

*FB - Keith Smith, Cordarrelle Patterson (Added to reflect that they played the position in the opener.)

QB - Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks


DL - Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson

NT - Tyeler Davison, *Anthony Rush, Ta’Quon Graham

L - Jonathan Bullard, Mike Pennel, John Cominsky

OLB - Dante Fowler, Brandon Copeland

ILB - Deion Jones, Mykal Walker

ILB - Foyesade Oluokun, Daren Bates

OLB – Adetokunbo Ogundeji, James Vaughters

LCB - A.J. Terrell, Darren Hall, Chris Williamson

FS - Erik Harris, Jaylinn Hawkins

SS - Duron Harmon, Richie Grant

RCB - Fabian Moreau, Avery Williams, Kendall Sheffield


K - Younghoe Koo

P - Dustin Colquitt

LS - Josh Harris

H - Dustin Colquitt

PR - Avery Williams, Olamide Zaccheaus

KOR - Cordarrelle Patterson

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