Head coach Arthur Smith wasn’t worried about how the Atlanta Falcons earned their first victory of the season over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Despite some first-game mistakes, it was the fact they got it done.
“I’m just happy that we got the win,” Smith said. “It’s always good to get a win in the NFL, especially at home. Now we’ve got to get ready from a good Green Bay team coming in here.”
With the 24-10 win over an NFC South rival, Atlanta is off and running after a 7-10 finish a season ago.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder completed 15 of 18 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in his fifth career start. Nine of Ridder’s 18 pass attempts were under 10 yards and only one went longer than 20 yards.
Some of that had to do with Atlanta’s inability to pass protect against a talented Carolina front that tallied four sacks and forced Ridder out of the pocket on several occasions.
But Smith emphasized that it wasn’t a lack of effort that the offense didn’t hit more plays downfield.
“We got sacked on four,” Smith said. “Our depth wasn’t good on some of ‘em. Some of them they may have covered. So, no, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. When you’re in third-and-22, third-and-12, it’s give and take. You don’t want them to pin their ears back.”
Second-year pro Tyler Allgeier, rookie tailback Bijan Robinson and safety Jessie Bates III played instrumental roles in the team’s win over Carolina.
Allgeier had a team-high 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, while Robinson added 56 yards on the ground and six receptions for 27 yards and a score. Bates forced three turnovers (two interceptions, forced fumble) and recorded 10 tackles in his Falcons debut.
Rookie Matthew Bergeron, a second-round pick, got his first NFL start at left guard for one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league. Smith was pleased with how Bergeron played in his debut.
“Very solid,” Smith said. “It wasn’t perfect. But he’s a strong player with a tough mindset and I thought he played pretty well making his first NFL start.”
The Falcons will host Green Bay (1-0, 1-0 NFC North) Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The Packers rolled to an impressive 38-20 win over Chicago last week behind three touchdown passes from quarterback Jordan Love and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) from tailback Aaron Jones.
Jones’ status is up in the air, however, after he injured his hamstring crossing the goal line on a 35-yard scoring reception in the third quarter, which gave the Packers a commanding 24-6 lead. After the game, Jones was seen jogging into the locker room so the injury may not be serious enough to keep him out of Sunday’s meeting.
Regardless of Green Bay’s situation, Smith is focused on his team improving from week to week so it can do what it hasn’t done since the 2017 season, and that’s make the playoffs.
“I’m just trying to help make this team better so we can play in the postseason,” Smith said.
–All-purpose back Cordarrelle Patterson (thigh) and cornerback Jeff Okudah did not play in the win over the Panthers. Smith is hopeful the two can return to the lineup in the coming days. Smith also said the team escaped any major injuries in the win over Carolina.
“We were actually pretty clean from an injury standpoint, which is always a positive,” Smith said. “With (Cordarrelle) Patterson and (Jeff) Okudah, they are trending in the right direction so we’ll see what Wednesday looks like for both of those guys.”
–The Falcons released running back Godwin Igwebuike, who was called up from the practice squad before the Week 1 game.