X-factor for Falcons-Jaguars: Can Kyle Pitts carry the passing attack?

Graphic shows Kyle Pitts stats through 10 games of rookie season.
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Graphic shows Kyle Pitts stats through 10 games of rookie season.

Credit: Illustration by ArLuther Lee / AJC

FLOWERY BRANCH -- With the Falcons’ offensive-weaponry cupboard pretty thin, they find themselves in the position of leaning on rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, the highest drafted tight end in the modern era of the NFL, at fourth overall.

Pitts, who is having a solid season, will be the X-factor when the Falcons (4-6) face the Jaguars (2-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

Pitts has caught 43 of 69 passes (62.3%) for 635 yards and one touchdown.

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Credit: Illustration by ArLuther Lee / AJC

“He’s a wide receiver,” blurted out Jacksonville coach Urban Meyer when talking to the local media last week.

With wide receiver Calvin Ridley (non football injured list) and tight end Hayden Hurst (ankle/injured reserve) out, the Falcons’ offense has been derailed.

But the stall also can be directly traced to the ankle injury of Cordarrelle Patterson midway through the Dallas game. Patterson may be available against the Jaguars.

The Falcons have not scored a touchdown over their past 26 possessions, including 12 punts, 10 three-and-outs and only two field goals.

Since Pitts appeared to break out against the Jets and Miami, with nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown and seven catches for 163 yards, opposing defenses have slowed Pitts.

In the subsequent four games, he has two, three, four and three catches for 12, 62, 60 and 29 yards. There have been a couple of drops, and he didn’t appear to be hustling on a deep ball that quarterback Matt Ryan just heaved up, trying to give Pitts a chance to make a play in a desperate situation.

The Falcons believe they can get Pitts unleashed.

“I think you’re a play away from that,” Ryan said. “One explosive play away where you kind of get into a little bit of a rhythm.”

Carolina put cornerback Stephon Gilmore over Pitts. Meyer was not sure how they will play Pitts.

“I thought the Patriots did a pretty good job against him,” Meyer said. “Before that, I don’t know if one guy can stop him as far as players that you have to help over the top or help inside or something like that. If you’re going to play man or zone it’s different.”

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Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Next four games

Falcons at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28

Tampa Bay at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

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