Falcons plan to build off first win

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Caption
Falcons coach Arthur Smith addresses the team's win over the N.Y. Giants and how that could play out against another NFC East team, Washington.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

FLOWERY BRANCH – With a last-second 17-14 Falcons’ win over the Giants in the books, Arthur Smith plans to build off his first win as an NFL head coach.

“Now, the trick is can we take another step,” Smith said on Monday. “Ok, what can we do to improve. Let’s get ready to go play Washington.”

The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season. The next three opponents -- Washington, New York Jets (0-3) and the Dolphins (1-2) -- have a combined record for 2-7.

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If the Falcons can fix some of their consistency issues, perhaps they can string together some victories.

“It’s is good to get the first win,” Smith said. “We’ve got a long ways to go.”

The win wasn’t a master-piece and no one from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton has called for the game film. But for the Falcons, who lost by a combined 49 points in their first two games, the victory was a first step in a positive direction.

“Everything we’ll look at and evaluate, you’ve got to be objective,” Smith said. “Then you, have to give the players credit, show them why we ended up winning that game.”

After playing a disjointed game for most of the day, several players stepped up on offense, defense and special teams as the Falcons dominated the final quarter.

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“Guys who stepped up in key moments, Tajae (Sharp) caught a big third down pass,” Smith said. “I thought OZ (Olamide Zaccheaus) played pretty well.”

Blocking tight end Lee Smith caught the game-tying touchdown pass.

“Lee Smith does a lot of stuff, kind of the unsung hero of a lot of things,” Smith said. “He came through big down there on the goal line. Those are some of the guys offensively. (Fullback) Keith Smith had a big role. He does a lot of the dirty work. Things that people will never notice.”

Arthur Smith also said he appreciated the dependability of long snapper Josh Harris and special team linebacker Brandon Copeland.

“Defensively, (nickel back) Isaiah Oliver is playing really strong,” Arthur Smith said. “Really sound within the scheme. Reliable. I think he’s taken the role on well as the nickel in there. So, a lot of these guys, (outside linebacker Dante) Fowler continues to make big plays at big moments. That was good to see. Grady (Jarrett) is always going 100 miles per hour. He was disruptive (against) the run and pass.

Smith thought the defense really came to play early on. The Giants went after backup left cornerback T.J. Green, who was starting for A.J. Terrell (concussion protocol), and connected on a 38-yard pass play. Instead of giving up a touchdown, the defense got a sack from Jarrett and held the Giants to a field goal.

“We made them kick a field goal,” Smith said. “That was an improvement. That was one play that showed that, ‘hey, we’ve made a step.’ "

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After the Giants went up 14-7 with 12:48 to play, the Falcons needed a score, a stop and another score.

“We played together in all three phases of the game,” Smith said. “Took a long (15-play) drive, started at 12 and some change. Had one of those long methodical drives.”

Rookie tight Kyle Pitts and Sharp had big catches on third downs. Pitts also drew a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone to keep the drive alive.

After Lee Smith’s touchdown catch, one of the unsung heroes on defense was backup nickel back Avery Williams, who batted down a pass on first-and-10 from New York’s 49. On the next play, Fowler got the big sack of the game and Deion Jones followed with a nice open-field tackle on Saquon Barkley to force the Giants to punt.

Before the last two offensive possessions, the Falcons had the eight possessions and just a touchdown. They were forced to punt six times and had a fumble.

“We could have been a lot better in a lot of situations,” wide receiver Calvin Ridley said. “We fought through.”

What clicked for the offense?

“We just put something together,” Ridley said. “We needed plays to be made and we made plays. We were able to drive it down and put ourselves in position to win the game.”

The offense must continue to improve and be more productive.

“We’re still figuring it out,” Ridley said. “How we are going to move the ball. How teams are going to play us. We are still in that phase of getting better right now.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Caption
Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley on lessons learned in win over N.Y. Giants and moving forward.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

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Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington FT at Falcons, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m.

New York Jets vs. Falcons in London, Oct. 10 at 9:30 a.m.

Bye Week

Falcons at Miami Dolphins, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.

Here’s the rest of full schedule.

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