Cover 9@9: Arthur Smith on Kyle Pitts: ‘He’s a big part of the offense’

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

The head coach discusses this week's game against New York on the road.

1. The no-spin zone: The Falcons’ “Big 3″ had varying roles in the 24-15 win over the Saints on Sunday.

Tight end Kyle Pitts (drafted fourth overall in 2021), wide receiver Drake London (eighth in 2022) and running back Bijan Robinson (eighth in 2023) need roles down the stretch to help prop up the offense and help quarterback Desmond Ridder in his return to the starting lineup.

Pitts’ role was not as big against the Saints.

London played 52 of 62 offensive snaps (84%) against the Saints. Pitts played 31 (50%) and Robinson played 39 (63%).

“He’s been building to come back,” Smith said. “I told you that, and he made the plays that were there. There were a couple of times that we took off on some pass attempts that he had a shot at, but when you’re in some of the heavy four-minute stuff, there was no need to put some of those guys out there.”

Smith said it was more of the flow of the game and wasn’t an intentional reduction.

“It’s a credit to (Parker) Hesse and (MyCole) Pruitt and the way those packages were built,” Smith said. “It was working, so we stuck with it. The name of the game is to win the game and for everybody to improve.”

Pitts caught two passes for 22 yards, including an 11-yard catch to convert a third-and-10.

“There have been other times where you’re stuck in a lot of two-minute situations. Well, it adds up the other way,” Smith said. “He’s a big part of the offense. Like I said, I give him credit. A lot of guys in that situation could make a lot of excuses or not work the way he does. Just what I said last week, but the play-time thing really had to do with, look at the last two drives.”

Hesse, who was promoted from the practice squad for the game, played 23 offensive snaps (37%) to help with blocking when the Falcons went to their rushing attack. He was on the injured reserve/practice squad list with a back injury.

“It felt great to be back out there with the guys,” Hesse said. “Obviously being away is frustrating being hurt. Feeling like you’re a part of the team and being able to contribute, in a way, that’s what this game is about, especially to get a win like that.”

Hesse played in the season opener against Carolina before sustaining his back injury. He was fine with the run-heavy play-calls in the fourth quarter.

“Anytime that you can get a lead, if you can kind of impose your will, hold on to the ball and not give them a chance because you know with NFL games, there’s a lot of one-score games,” Hesse said. “Crazy stuff happens in the fourth quarter. The more that you can control the ball and not give them opportunities to make plays and bring it back to a one-score game, that’s how you close out games in the NFL.”

Hesse doesn’t know if he’s headed for a full-time spot on the 53-man roster.

“I haven’t talked to anybody at all,” Hesse said. “Obviously, just keep showing up every day. If I get my opportunity, I’d be more than excited about that.”

Hesse worked his way back from the injury.

“I was just dealing with kind of a back issue,” Hesse said. “It was something that I have off and on a little bit throughout the year. It flared up and kept me out a little bit.”

2. Patterson’s role: Running back Cordarrelle Patterson moved ahead of Tyler Allgeier in the running back rotation against the Saints.

Then a fresh Allgeier came on to help wear down the Saints defense late in the game.

Patterson rushed eight times for 43 yards. It was his most work since he rushed 10 times for 56 yards against Tampa Bay on Oct. 22, in the game where Robinson was sick and had only one carry.

3. Ragone to stay up top: The plan is for offensive coordinator Dave Ragone to stay up in the coaches’ box.

“It worked well for us,” Smith said. “There are other small things we did logistically around in other phases, too, but that’s the name of the game. It’s just like every week you’re looking at what can you do better and what makes sense for us and the communication flow.”

4. First-place Falcons: The Falcons are in first place in the NFC South with six games to play.

“It’s a huge step for us, this back half of the season,” linebacker Nate Landman said. “It’s one more step that we had to take to get to our goals and be a playoff team and keep moving on to bigger and better things.”

Landman, who took over for Troy Andersen after his injury, ranks third on the team with 73 tackles.

“I’m super proud of our whole team, offense, defense and special teams,” Landman said. “I think it says a lot about the group and the kind of players we have in the building. The energy on the sidelines. We always fight.

“Just super proud of this team and how resilient that we are. The attitude that we bring to every game and to practice every week. I wouldn’t want to go to battle with any other guys.”

The defense gave up 444 yards to the Saints, but held them to making 5 of 6 field-goal attempts and no touchdowns.

“I think it shows our grittiness and our mentality that we were going to play aggressive football,” Landman said. “Others (teams) have good players, they’ll make plays. But when it counts, we bow up. We are a hard defense to score on.”

5. Series history: This will be the 14th meeting between the Jets and Falcons. The Falcons lead the series 8-5 and won the last meeting 27-20 on Oct. 10, 2021 at Tottenham Stadium in London.

6. Jets weapons: Jets quarterback Tim Boyle will have some weapons with him. Running backs Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook are playing well. Hall is the leading rusher, with 124 carries for 569 yards and two touchdowns. Cook has 50 rushes for 162 yards.

Garrett Wilson is the leading receiver, with 64 catches for 695 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Tyler Conklin has been productive with 39 catches for 414 yards.

“They’ve got a talented group of backs,” Landman said. “Talented wide receivers, and they are going to play hard.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

7. The Williams brothers: The Jets defense has given up 323.5 yards per game, which ranks 15th in the NFL. Because the offense is last in time of possession in the league (27:19), they have been on the field more.

Linebacker Quincy Williams leads the Jets in tackles with 115. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, his brother, anchors the defensive line, and cornerback Sauce Gardner is the top player in the secondary.

“It’s a fast team, a fast defense,” Smith said.

8. Where to watch, listen and livestream: What you should know about Sunday’s game between the Falcons (5-6) and the New York Jets (4-7), which is set for 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

TV: Fox. Play-by-Play: Kenny Albert. Analyst: Jonathan Vilma. Sideline Reporter: Shannon Spake.

Local radio: 92.9 The Game. Play-by-play: Wes Durham. Analyst: Dave Archer. Executive producer: Beau Morgan. Engineer: Miller Pope. Pregame/postgame show – Hosts: Chris Goforth and Mike Johnson, with Dylan Matthews and Orin Romain as studio producers at 11 a.m.

Satellite radio: SiriusXM NFL Radio. Falcons channel 138 or 381 or the App. Jets 81 or 226 or the App. (Games also are available on the SiriusXM App. Fans can find their team’s channel under the “NFL Play-by-Play” tab or by searching their team’s name.)

Livestream: Streaming inside the Atlanta market: Fans in the Atlanta market can stream the game on the Atlanta Falcons app. NFL app (subscription required). Out of the country: GamePass International.

9. Depth chart: The Falcons (5-6) are set to play the Jets (4-7) at 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Here’s the depth chart for the Jets’ game:

OFFENSE

WR Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge

TE Kyle Pitts, John FitzPatrick

LT Jake Matthews

LG Matthew Bergeron, Jovaughn Gwyn

C Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil

RG Chris Lindstrom, Kyle Hinton

RT Kaleb McGary, Storm Norton

TE Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt

WR Drake London, Scotty Miller, Van Jefferson

FB Keith Smith (Team list him as Pitts backup, but he lines up at fullback in games)

RB Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier

Joker Cordarrelle Patterson

QB Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside

DEFENSE

DL Kentavious Street, Albert Huggins, Travis Bell

DL David Onyemata, Ta’Quon Graham

DE Calais Campbell, Zach Harrison, Joe Gaziano

OLB Bud Dupree, Lorenzo Carter

ILB Kaden Elliss

ILB Nate Landman, Andre Smith Jr.

OLB Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone

CB A.J. Terrell, Mike Hughes

S Jessie Bates III, Micah Abernathy

S Richie Grant, DeMarcco Hellams

NB Dee Alford, Clark Phillips III

CB Jeff Okudah, Tre Flowers

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Younghoe Koo

P Bradley Pinion

LS Liam McCullough

H Bradley Pinion

PR Dee Alford, Scotty Miller, Mike Hughes, Bijan Robinson

KOR Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Hughes

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