Short-yardage attack giving Falcons grief

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons’ short-yardage offense needs some work.

Four times in their 48-25 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Falcons were stuffed in a short-yardage situation.

ExploreCordarrelle Patterson: ‘They did a good job of stopping us’

When they needed a yard most, they couldn’t get it.

“When you don’t convert third-and-1, fourth-and-1, it keeps you up at night,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said.

Trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter, the Falcons had a fourth-and-1 at their 45. Quarterback Matt Ryan was stuffed for no gain.

On second-and-1 in the third quarter, Cordarrelle Patterson fumbled after getting a direct snap for a loss of nine yards. The Falcons did score two plays later on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley to make the score 28-17.

The Falcons also didn’t convert on a fourth-and-1 with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter.

The biggest short-yardage stop thwarted any chances for a comeback.

The Falcons had closed to 28-25 and got a stop from the defense. It was time to go tie the score or take the lead, but they couldn’t convert on third-and-1 from the 13. Patterson was dropped for a loss of three yards. Cameron Nizialek shanked a 33-yard punt, and Bucs quarterback Tom Brady zipped the team down the field in three plays to re-take control of the game.

Patterson didn’t stand a chance. The Bucs had pressure from around the edges, and backup defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches beat tackle Kaleb McGary to the inside and dropped Patterson before he could get rolling.

“Their front seven are no joke man, and it showed,” Patterson said. “They did a good job of stopping us, but that’s no excuse for us. We have to keep grinding and keep running the ball.”

Smith was not pleased.

“Whether we run it or pass it, we have to get our pads down and block better,” Smith said. “You can’t get blown off. ... If you are going to be a team that wants to be physical, whether you are running or passing, we have to stand up in those situations. That’s nothing that I haven’t told the team or the line. That’s not an excuse.”

On the Ryan quarterback sneak, the Falcons tried to hurry and catch the Bucs’ off-guard. That plan backfired.

“The thing is, some of those you’ve got to get the play started,” Smith said. “Multiple reasons we weren’t all coming off at the same time, they let the noise affect us or not.”

But the Patterson stop was a soul-snatching play.

“I think we’ve got to do a better job across the board of not allowing penetration in the middle and getting some better push and then you know, trying to find ways to get us in space,” Ryan said. “Get guys opportunities to get that one yard.”

The play zapped the Falcons’ momentum.

“When you get your opportunities with fourth-down calls, fourth-and-ones, where give you the confidence to go for it, you have a chance to extend drives,” Ryan said. “Get points on the board. You have to take advantage of those. They are huge swings.”

Everything went downhill for the Falcons after that third-and-1 stop.

“It’s a tight game, and the momentum was kind of on our side, and you’ve got to keep it there,” Ryan said. “Those are things we’ve got to correct and do better as we move forward if we want to be the football team that we can be.”

The Falcons will look at the short-yardage package.

“You know when things don’t work,” Smith said. “You got to start, hey, schematically, what could I have done better and you look at some of the personnel matchups.”

The Bucs, who won the Super Bowl over Kansas City last season with a strong defensive performance, have one of the stoutest defensive fronts in the NFL.

“They are tough, they pack it in there,” Smith said. “I think you saw some productive runs at other spots. There are things that we felt we could have done a better job of.”

The Falcons plan to stress the details when preparing for the Giants this week.

“When you get in these games and you got long drives and when guys get fatigued, you know the details do matter, and a lot of that affects what you will never know but just what may be asked, the spacing on a route, which takes the timing off the quarterback. Maybe you’re holding the ball a tick longer, and then it looks like protection,” Smith said. “So it all goes together.”

The Falcons are not playing at the precision level that Smith wants, but that was to be expected after he didn’t play the players during the exhibition season.

“We’re not at the right depth maybe here or there,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of progress made, but not enough, and when you’re playing really good teams on the road, we didn’t make enough plays at the end. That’s why it got away from us.”

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Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons at New York Giants, Sept. 26 at 1 p.m.

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

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

Here’s the rest of full schedule.