Mon, 06 Dec 2021

Despite two anemic showings in a span of five days last week, coach Arthur Smith insists the Atlanta Falcons' season isn't over.

And he certainly doesn't want to hear about next year or a long-term rebuild.

Smith was asked during his Monday presser if the franchise faced a "bigger reconstruction project" than what he and general manager Terry Fontenot initially expected.

"You're not gonna put those words in my mouth. You know what I'm saying?" Smith said. "Look, we understood exactly what the job entailed. There's things that come up along the way and you have to adapt.

"Like I said, as bad as the last two games have felt, what the reality is (is) we're 4-6. And if we can play better, find a way to go win Sunday, you're not out of it this year. And we'll see where it goes."

Sunday's visit to the Jacksonville Jaguars on paper looks like an easier task than Atlanta's prior two weeks. The Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots beat the Falcons by a combined 68-3.

Smith said the Falcons must "play a lot smarter" and not become "obvious" on offense in order to improve. They gained just 214 yards of offense Nov. 14 against Dallas, with Matt Ryan throwing two interceptions and just nine completions. Ryan performed slightly better the following Thursday against New England, but threw another two picks as Atlanta mustered only 165 total yards.

Without all-purpose weapon Cordarrelle Patterson due to an ankle injury, the Falcons gained only 40 rushing yards against the Patriots. The team has also been without No. 1 wide receiver Calvin Ridley since Oct. 31, when he announced he needed to step away temporarily from football for mental health reasons.

Smith did not offer any updates about Ridley, who's eligible to return from the non-football injury list this week, nor about offensive lineman Matt Gono, who has yet to play this year due to an undisclosed injury.

"You've got to expect the unexpected sometimes in this job," Smith said. "There's some things that are out of your control ... Of course you don't wish some of the things happen that do, but then you've gotta get over it, you've got to move on, you've got to problem-solve. You got to stick with it, control the things you can control."

With seven games to go, Atlanta is looking up at several teams in between itself and the final NFC wild-card berth, which as of Monday belonged to NFC East rival New Orleans as part of a tie at 5-5. The Falcons are just one game behind that and have one head-to-head win against the Saints in hand thus far.

Before breaking down postseason scenarios, the Falcons will need to take the winnable games in front of them, including the 2-8 Jaguars in Week 12.

"The reality is we have a great opportunity this week," Smith said. "We're not where we want to be. We gotta own it. We're 4-6. We deserve to be. But we're still in the mix with a big game down in Jacksonville this week."

--Field Level Media

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