The Atlanta Falcons were hoping to make it 3-0 after facing the Detroit Lions. That didn't happen. The Falcons had a very unpleasant visit to Ford Field and Detroit Rock City where they weren't even able to score a single touchdown, losing 20-6. Atlanta seemingly had all the momentum coming into this game, given that Detroit gave up a late touchdown in Week 2 to take a loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Falcons will now have to wait until they make a long trek across the pond, to London, England when they have to face AFC South favorite Jacksonville Jaguars. There's a lot to learn from this game for the Falcons, however. First of all, they looked flat all day as an offense, while also giving up some critical plays on defense, most notably that of a wide-open 45-yard touchdown reception to Lions' tight end Sam LaPorta in the second quarter. So, who's to blame?
Falcons' offensive line
Before facing the Falcons, the Lions had only one sack in two games. In Sunday's game, the Falcons' offensive line surrendered a whopping seven sacks against the Detroit defensive front. In the two games before, they had allowed five.
This has to be concerning for head coach Arthur Smith. This was the best defensive front that they've faced yet, and they couldn't handle the pressure, keeping the offense out of rhythm all day. “They took us out of our rhythm early, and we never got it back,” Smith said, per ESPN.
You could probably stop the blame game right here because it was all a trickle-down effect that greatly affected the offensive production for the Dirty Birds. But let's continue.
It's probably still a little unfair to judge Desmond Ridder on his career and his future, but this was not the day Smith and Falcons fans were hoping for from their starting quarterback. It was one of those days where most pundits were probably shaking their heads, giving plenty of the “told ya so's.”
Ridder only completed 55 percent of passes against the Lions, throwing for 201 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions but one lost fumble. Ridder felt the pressure early and often today, not only taking the seven sacks but also enduring eight quarterback hits to go with it. Ridder looked shaky and uncertain, forced to make errant, overthrown throws. It wasn't all him, but he didn't the help the offensive production either. I noted in my Falcons vs. Lions predictions from last week that I believed the Lions were going to force Ridder to win this game for the Falcons, and sure enough, that's what they did.
The Falcons' running game
The reason I said Ridder was going to be forced to win the game for the Falcons was that the Lions had yet to give up 100 yards rushing this season in their previous two games. Well, that held true today as well. With a backfield of Tyler Allgeier and rookie Bijan Robinson, Atlanta was only able to rack up 44 yards on the ground, whereas they ran for 130 against the Panthers and 211 against the Packers. The Falcons were averaging 4.5 yards per carry in those first two games. The Lions were efficient in holding them to 2.2.
The Falcons' defensive line
Under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, the Falcons have allowed an average of 18 points per game, the eighth fewest in the league. There's also new talent to go with the new scheme. This all seems to be working for the most part. But when watching it in real time, you can tell there are some kinks that need to be worked out.
Too often against the Lions, the Falcons left wide receivers seemingly wide open. However, part of that could be looked at through an advanced stat sheet that said Lions' quarterback Jared Goff was allowed 2.66 seconds (per The Athletic) to find his receivers on Sunday, where he went 22-for-33 for 243 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Simply put: the Falcons' defense could never get to Goff, and they paid for it.