Nov 28, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA;  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls a play at the line against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

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Falcons drawing the line at performance up front

In Arthur Smith’s eyes, the Atlanta Falcons’ game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday was lost in the trenches.

En route to a 31-13 victory, the host 49ers sacked Matt Ryan three times and hit him 10 times while recording two tackles for loss and limiting Atlanta to 68 rushing yards, its lowest total in a month.

Whether it was run blocking or pass protection, the Falcons’ offensive line had to answer for a subpar performance.

“Certainly we felt in the last couple weeks we had been playing better,” Smith said Monday, citing the Falcons’ Week 14 victory over the Panthers. “I thought we went up there and played pretty well, especially up front. It was kind of the polar opposite this week. You look at going up to Carolina, I thought we played really well on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Go out to San Francisco, or Santa Clara, and they got after us on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

“We’ve made progress. Certainly (Sunday) wasn’t what we wanted. We’ll continue to work at, continue to look at every option on the table.”

The Falcons tried to use more play-action to get dual-threat playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson involved, but it was in vain. Patterson was held to 18 rushing yards on 11 attempts along with two receptions for 5 yards.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Patterson was hit behind the line of scrimmage on seven of his 11 runs Sunday.

“When he’s back there at running back, whether you had Eric Dickerson or Walter Payton back there, you’re getting hit in the backfield,” Smith said. “Maybe Barry Sanders could make three guys miss back there, but that’s just stating the obvious there.

“It’s one thing after another. That’s what the game came down to, inside on the line of scrimmage, and credit to them. They had a say. We felt we’d been playing better. That’s the consistency you gotta bring in the NFL. That’s why you see all these crazy scores week in and week out. It’s the hardest thing to do, to sustain that level of play. But I have all the confidence in our guys that we’ll bounce back this week. They did a nice job, San Fran did, on both sides.”

The Falcons’ loss knocked them down to 6-8 and on the outside looking in at a crowded NFC wild-card hunt.

The 49ers moved into the conference’s No. 6 seed by beating Atlanta, while NFC South rival New Orleans Saints occupied the seventh and final playoff spot at 7-7 after a 9-0 win over the Buccaneers later Sunday night. Atlanta also has to contend with the Minnesota Vikings, who were 6-7 entering Monday night’s game, as well as the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles, both 6-7 before they were set to face off Tuesday.

Still, Ryan said after Sunday’s game that Atlanta had to hold up its end of the bargain and not worry about the external requirements to qualify for the postseason.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance?” he said. “Isn’t that the old movie line or whatever?”

Like Ryan, Smith has seen crazy things happen in his time in the NFL. His team is home Sunday, presented with a supposedly cupcake opponent next week in the 2-11-1 Detroit Lions, but the Falcons are just 1-5 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season. And the Lions are coming off a victory over the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals.

“Those things can snowball you and we’ve got to do something to change that narrative, certainly,” Smith said. “The most important thing, whether we were playing in Atlanta, Detroit, Barcelona, Cabo, we’ve got to get ready to play a good team and go out there and execute and play better up front.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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