Notes on CAR @ ATL, Week 1

Notes on CAR @ ATL, Week 1

Arthur Smith, Puppeteer

That's my main takeaway from watching the condensed replay of Panthers-Falcons:

Arthur Smith is a puppeteer, he does not let Desmond Ridder do anything.

Like, at all.

If you'd like to read my game notes, keep on scrolling. I hope they provide more context than just looking at the box score or play-by-play tab on ESPN.

Arthur Smith has completely neutered his quarterback. Desmond Ridder is not allowed to be a signal-caller, a field general, a creator.

When he's allowed to throw, wherever the ball ends up was preordained. There's no working through the progressions because they do not exist. There's no room for creativity because the play has been drawn in Sharpie. It's snap, look, fire.

Or snap, wait, make eye contact with the target—seriously, don't look at anything else—fire.

It's really frustrating to watch.

Desmond Ridder is going to have to be trusted to make some plays on his own and not just execute Arthur Smith's commands if the Falcons want to win any sort of meaningful football games in January and February.

Ridder is not some fucking golden retriever, he's a human being tasked with leading a football team on the field, in the locker room.

It's no wonder Ridder looks a little frantic or scatterbrained when the pocket collapses, when he gets a chance to make more than a single read on any given dropback, when the opportunity to control a second of the game presents itself.

Allowing your quarterback a smidgen of control, as a treat! What a concept!

You know who allows his QB control? Frank Reich.

Bryce Young Is the Real Deal

Over and over again, I jotted down: poised, calm, decisive. Never rattled, quickly works through his progressions.

Makes the right choices with the ball.

Bryce Young is making the decisions, making the choices for the Carolina Panthers.

He has been tasked with leading his team on the field, in the locker room, and was given the keys in his first NFL start.

The Panthers are in a better position than the Falcons for longterm success because of it. They need help on both sides of the ball, but there is no worry at quarterback.

Bryce Young's processing is immediately apparent. His size is not an issue. He's willing to throw the ball away when a play isn't there.

He's the real deal and looks like he'll be a problem for the rest of the NFC South for the next decade.

Bijan Robinson? Also the Real Deal

Lmao. LOL. Goddamn.

Holy shit.

Alright, so maybe you saw the stats and you're worried about Tyler Allgeier.

Brother, you have nothing to worry about.

Bijan is the engine of the offense. He was getting the first look on most drives and... wait a minute

What if Arthur Smith doesn't want to be the quarterback, it's just that he HATES quarterbacks and LOVES running backs, that he is so enamored with running backs and believes they are the BEST players on the field, that he's sick of quarterbacks getting all the love, money, awards, everything.


Much to think about. Real Big Brain stuff.

Anyway, like I was saying: Bijan was so damn good at ripping off chunk plays; at cutting at the speed of light, that he was likely given a breather and, unfortunately, those breathers may have cost him another touchdown or two on the ground.

At least he got one through the air!

And he seems immune to the doghouse.

There was a play where he gained 10 yards in a blink, made a vicious cut, got another five yards and had the ball punched out. An Atlanta lineman pounced on it immediately, no worries. (The play was whistled for offensive holding, too, so the gain was negated... but the fumble would have stood had Carolina recovered.)

Did this effect his playing time the rest of the game? It did not.

Drake London, Welcome to the Doghouse

In the second quarter, on Atlanta's fourth drive of the game, Ridder looked to Drake London for an easy completion, a short route that was a great catch-and-run opportunity.

London turned upfield before securing the catch, dropping the target.

Two plays later, on 3rd & 5, Ridder scrambles out to his right and finds Kyle Pitts downfield for a first down on a nice play.

Problem is, there was a flag. Drake London, illegal shift. Play wiped out.

Now, I have no proof that Drake London was put in the doghouse because of this sequence of events.

But given my rant about Arthur Smith being a puppeteer and not allowing Ridder to dictate where the ball should go on any given play, and seemingly forcing Ridder's hand as soon as the ball is snapped...

I think there's a pretty good chance London was in the doghouse.

He did not receive another target the rest of the game and, afterward, Arthur Smith told him to be patient.

When Smith told London after the game to be patient, the wide receiver responded, "Coach, we're 1-0," London said.

Arthur Smith added:

"If you're impatient, you get in a game like that where it's not going your way and you get greedy in certain situations and you can see people lose the game like that.'

Patience and Greed

What does Arthur Smith think these words mean?

When I think of patience, I think of Frank Reich allowing his quarterback, No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, to take control of the offense, to work through his progressions, to make decisions for better or for worse, because that's the only way Bryce and the team will get better.

That's patience.

When I think of greed, I think of telling your quarterback exactly where to go with the ball, exactly what to do, on every single play, because you know better, because you're Arthur Smith, god amongst men, mustachioed dipshit lumbering along the sidelines.

Miles Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, Tyler Allgeier

All look pretty good! All had their moments!

They can rip off runs and they're involved in the passing game.

As I noted, Bijan is definitely the engine of the Falcons offense, but as I also noted he's so damn good that he's going to get tired and need some breaks—perhaps even alternating drives or maybe coming off the field in the redzone, sometimes—which opens the door for Allgeier to be a reliable running back in fantasy most weeks.

Moving Forward: Carolina Panthers

I was really encouraged by what I saw out of rookie Jonathan Mingo, who seems to be a featured part of the offense and will get plenty of opportunity to grow with Bryce Young. I'm not starting him in fantasy, but I'd love to roster him in dynasty and add him to the watchlist in redraft.

Hayden Hurst is going to be a big part of the offense. The beat reporters said as much during the summer and it proved true on numerous drives in Week 1. He's a short-area target and Bryce looked his way in the redzone against the Falcons, scoring from a few yards out.

Adam Thielen may be dust. He was called for offensive pass interference early and later, when he did make a catch, he was tackled immediately, which to me indicates a lack of separation and juice.

Never all that athletic, Thielen's time as a productive roleplayer in the NFL may be coming to an end.

Moving Forward: Atlanta Falcons

Maybe Deion and Shedeur Sanders will make their way to Atlanta in 2024?




Below, you'll find my game notes.

Q1 — First Quarter

Q1 | ATL, first drive of the game

  • First play, Desmond Ridder's pass attempt hits a lineman, pops up in the air and Ridder catches it for a 6-yard loss.
  • Third down: Ball is stripped from Ridder, he falls on it.

Q1 | CAR, 1st drive of the game

  • Holding during the punt return, backed up 10 yards before the drive begins
  • Miles Sanders looks solid, gets a rushing first down.
  • Bryce Young loses a carry/miscue on an option handoff-type play, Bryce falls on it.
  • Laviska Shenault Jr. receives back-to-back manufactured touches: quick touch pass and then a carry out of the backfield. Discount Deebo.
  • Panthers go for it on 4th and 1, Chuba Hubbard stuffed, turnover.

Q1 | ATL, 2nd drive of the game

  • Tyler Allgeier immediately rips off two huge runs for consecutive first downs, gaining 15+ yards on each, looks good.
  • Play-action with Bijan Robinson but Ridder is immediately sacked
  • Quick pass to Bijan, who gets annihilated by Brian Burns. Punt

Q1 | CAR, 2nd drive of the game

  • Offensive pass interference called on Adam Thielen. Not a great sign for his waning athleticism.
  • Delay of Game
  • Jessie Bates III picks off Bryce Young

Q2 — Second Quarter

Q1, Q2 | ATL, 3rd drive of the game

  • Another quick flip to Bijan Robinson, followed by a Bijan run
  • Then, as you may have seen, the highlight quick pass to Bijan, after Bijan was put in motion before the snap as a wideout with Allgeier lined up in the backfield, Bijan catches it, jukes, splits defenders and scores.

Q2 | CAR, 3rd drive of the game

  • Two Bryce incompletions, but Bryce showed mobility, kept plays alive

Q2 | ATL, 4th drive of the game

  • Drake London drop, would have been on easy completion on a quick, short route. He turned to run before securing the catch.
  • Next play, Ridder under pressure, tries to get away from the pass rush and moves up in the pocket, but at that point was looking to run and not throw, taken down at the line of scrimmage.
  • Drake London called for a penalty, illegal shift on a 3rd & 5 where Ridder scrambled a bit and got it to Kyle Pitts for a chunk play, but London's penalty negated the gain, play was called back.
London in the doghouse?
  • 3rd & 10, complete to Mack Hollins, just short of the first, punt. Hollins is the gunner on punt coverage, screaming down the field and is right in the face of the potential returner, ball goes out of bounds.

Q2 | CAR, 4th drive of the game

  • Laviska gets the ball again on some fake-reverse trickery, a handoff for a couple of yards.
  • Bryce has time to throw on 3rd down, complete for a first to Hayden Hurst over the middle.
  • Sanders gets a carry on 1st down, takes it for 2 yards. Bryce completion to Terrace Marshall for a first down, nice quick play.
  • Sanders rush to the outisde, hit before reaching the line of scrimmage.
  • Thielen short catch—down immediately.
  • Mingo sideline catch, toe-drag swag, on 3rd down for a first. Bryce looks good: decisive in a clean pocket
  • Chuba looks explosive
  • Panthers go no huddle after working the clock for most of the drive and Bryce hits Hurst for a quick TD.

Q2 | ATL, 5th drive of the game

  • Bijan 10-yard rush, then 2-yard rush
  • Allegeier in, Jonnu Smith false start pushes them back to 2 & 13
  • Ridder drops back, surveys, scrambles to his right for a frantic, modest gain. Called back. Holding.
  • 2nd & 23 — play-action to Allgeier, 11-yd completion to the intermediate-middle of the field to Mack Hollins.
  • 3rd & 12 – quick pass to Bijan, Ridder wasn't going to go anywhere else — Bijan blown up by Troy Hill behind the LOS. Punt.

Q2 | CAR, 5th drive of the game

  • 2-minute drill
  • 3 passes, 3 misses: behind, uncatchable, just out of reach. Possibly being cautious? Throwing away what's not there?

Q2 | ATL, 6th drive of the game

  • 1:24 left, great punt coverage by Carolina
  • Ridder spins out of a sack, resets, throws it back across the field to Mack Hollins—who was barely across the line of scrimmage. Ball whimpers to the ground short of the LOS. See Jonnu on the sideline. Doghouse?
  • Bijan hand off, then a short pass to Bijan for first down. Ridder sacked on the next play as he was only looking to throw to his right. Was this what he was told to do? Does he have any control of the offense? Any agency whatsoever?
  • Falcons decide to let the clock run out on the half, receive a chorus of boos from the home fans.

Q3 — Third Quarter

Q3 | CAR, 6th drive of the game

  • Fake option, quick pass. Then, Chuba Hubbard (I always want to call him Chubbard) has a nice run.
  • Play-action, Bryce always looks composed, a little hurried to avoid the sack but settles, makes a completion in rhythm to Hurst, 3 yards on the sideline.
  • Sanders with a nice outside run left, ending up on opposite sideline from Hurst catch for a 1st down.
  • Play-action, Bryce works through the progression then scrambles to the right for 10+ yards, picking up the first down.
  • Three back formation, Miles handoff, stuffed. Bryce throwaway, then Bryce to Jonathan Mingo on a comeback route, just shy of a first down. Kick a field goal, good.

Q3 | ATL, 7th drive of the game

  • Announcer mentions London + Pitts have combined for zero catches to this point.
  • Allgeier runs into the line of scrimmage. Flag on the run, must've been declined or offsetting.
  • Ridder over the intermediate middle, incomplete, intended for Pitts. Passed into traffic, looked like the ball could've been up for grabs (crowd sigh of relief, maybe, or an ooooh, just missed it, unsure).
Bijan was sent in motion on this play to hit the line of scrimmage running, to hit top speed faster. This was a trending play across the NFL in Week 1, most notably with Miami and Tyreek Hill going for 200+ receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.
  • 3rd & 10, pretty quick designed RB screen to Tyler Allgeier, short of the first (gained 8), punt.
  • 9:48 left in the 3rd, down 7-10
Desmond Ridder is NOT a point guard, and people need to stop throwing around that analogy. Ridder isn't asked to read the defense and hit the open man. He isn't asked to create offense like a point guard. Arthur Smith is a puppeteer.

Q3 | CAR, 7th drive of the game

  • Some good runs to start from Miles and Chuba, to open up play-action on first down, on the next drive, and a quick dumpoff to the back.
  • Drive ends moments later as Bryce throws another pick to Jessie Bates III — targeting the intermediate middle of the field.
  • Bates knew he liked to target inside the numbers and so he was "waiting on it," per The Athletic.

Q3 | ATL, 8th drive of the game

  • 15 yards added to the end of the interception return thanks to an Ian Thomas personal foul.
  • First play of the Atlanta drive is Bijan running to the right, making it look easy, for 9 yards.
  • Next carry, Bijan to the left, trips and falls.
  • Next carry to the left, stopped in the backfield again.
  • Boo birds out in Atlanta, Koo kick. Tie game, 10-10.

Q3 | CAR, 8th drive of the game

  • Chuba Hubbard rips off a 20+ yard run: Laviska was set in motion, it was a designed counter run to the right and Chuba cutback left into a humongous hole, just a hilarious amount of runway for him. Still, Chuba broke two tackles thanks to leverage and then dragged the tackler 5+ yards before going down.
  • Thielen sent in motion, Sanders to the right on an outside zone run, stopped in the backfield for a loss.
  • Mingo motioned into a stack receiver concept before the snap, Bryce surveys, works through progression, checks down to Chuba for a 2-yard gain.
  • Next play, intended for Terrace Marshall. Pass interference on Atlanta #33, first down.
  • Outside zone run to the right, Sanders gains a few. But it's coming back. Penalty for illegal formation, penalty on rookie Jonathan mingo for lining up incorrectly.
  • Miles Sanders solid run into the second level, ball punched out when tackled. Fumble lost.
The Panthers are patient, the Falcons are not. Arthur Smith's bullshit "patient" refrain coach speak has me thinking he doesn't know what the word means. It's like the Falcons players have learned to demur to reporters questions about lack of involvement because they know they'll be doghoused if they say the wrong thing, like they're being held hostage.

Q3, Q4 | ATL, 9th drive of the game

  • Allgeier run up the middle, to the right, 10+ yards for a first down.
  • Allgeier again runs up the middle, to the right, hits the line of scrimmage, goes down.
  • Quick throw by Ridder—no read, preordained—the call was to get it to Pitts, he does for a first down.
  • Kyle Pitts first catch with less than a minute to go in the 3rd quarter.
  • Ridder checks off first read, scrambles to his left, hits Allgeier short and it goes for a first down. Hurray! Desmond may have created that one!
  • Bijan strong run to the left, made a great cut, got 15+ yards and looked like he was going to score.
  • Allgeier carry on an option look, met immediately at the LOS, gang tackled, whistled dead.
  • Allgeier again runs up the middle and hits a wall, but this time he bounces it outside to the left and sneaks inside the pylon for a touchdown.
  • 17-10 Falcons, 14:12 left in the 4th quarter.

Q4 — 4th Quarter

Q4 | CAR, 9th drive of the game

  • Option look, handoff to Miles up the middle for 2 yards.
  • Bryce quickly surveys the field, dumps to Miles in the flat who makes a move to get the Panthers to 3rd & 1.
  • Option look—this time on Bryce's left vs. his right, Miles gets the ball and goes ahead for a short gain and a first down.
  • Option play-action look, set up by the previous plays, and Bryce takes a deep shot to Terrace Marshall but misses him by several yards.
  • Option handoff to Bryce's right, Miles takes it 5 yards up the middle.
  • False start, #79
  • 3 & 10, shotgun, few step drop out of the gun, quickly pressured, dances to try and evade, can't, sacked. Punt.

Q4 | ATL, 10th drive of the game

  • Bijan rush to the right, gets to the second level very fast, quick cut, 15+ yards down the field when the ball gets punched out—but an ATL lineman falls on it immediately.
  • But wait! There was a hold on #63, 10-yard penalty, wiping out the long rush (and potential fumble).
  • Ridder play-action delivers short to Allgeier in the flat, Allgeier gets absolutely lit up by Shaq Thompson.
  • Option handoff to Allgeier running in front of Ridder, stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
Really, Arthur Smith: do you think the Panthers thought there was any threat of Ridder keeping the ball? When you haven't let him do a damn thing all game... you're going to run an "option" play with him and hope the defense thinks he has "options." Truly, what the fuck
  • Ridder is 12/15 for 53 yards and a touchdown. There is 9:52 left in the 4th.
  • 3rd & 22, Ridder pressured immediately, dumpoff to Bijan who almost fuckin' picks it up, 17-yard gain. Another vicious cut. This guy is ridiculous. No matter, the Falcons punt.

Q4 | CAR, 10th drive of the game

  • Drive begins at the 1 yard line and is basically a wash, leading to a quick punt.

Q4 | ATL, 11th drive of the game

  • 7:09 left in the 4th, drive begins on the opposite 44-yard line.
  • Allgeier zone run left, ATL #40 in motion before the snap.
  • 2nd & 10, snap, looks to first read (only read?) and fires to Mack Hollins on a comeback route, first down.
  • Allgeier carry, wide zone run to the left.
  • Play-action to Bijan, Ridder eyes locked on the right side of the field, hits a deep shot to Kyle Pitts who reveals himself to be—wait for it—unguardable. Lined out wide, runs a nice route to get behind the coverage, is a mammoth compared to the tiny cornerback, easily gets back in front of the corner and in position to make the grab while running down the field.
  • 1st & goal, Allgeier handoff up the middle to the right, short gain.
  • Allgeier handoff to the left, behind the fullback, stumbles, runs in for his second TD
  • 24-10 Falcons, 4:48 left

Q4 | CAR, 11th drive of the game

  • Bryce processing on full display, throws away two balls when play wasn't there. Sacked on 3rd down but showed mobility on 2nd down.

Q4 | ATL, 12th drive of the game

  • Bijan zone left, back to LOS
  • Allgeier up the gut, makes a juke cut to get a few yards.
  • Allgeier rush left, back to LOS. Punt.

Q4 | CAR, 12th drive of the game

  • Throwaway on 1st down. Hits Miles in stride coming across the pattern and YAC's it up for a first.
  • More of the same for the rest of the drive, as far as Bryce making the right decisions, and the drive ends with his underrated escapability on display but unfortunately taking off on 4th and a mile, tackled. Turnover.

Q4 | ATL, 13th drive of the game

  • Kneel down, end of game.

ATL 24 - CAR 10