The top teams in the NFL all have closers. Yes, like in baseball. When it’s the fourth quarter with the game on the line, a closer is someone you can trust to put the game away for your team. For the teams that are constantly competing, you can find them on both sides of the football: Justin Herbert and Nick Bosa, Aaron Rodgers and Jaire Alexander, Josh Allen and Von Miller, to name a few. When you look at Atlanta Falcons teams in the recent past, there haven’t been any closers to speak of.
That is, maybe, until now. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith may have found themselves two bonafide closers, one that fell in their lap, one that needed a bit more work to find.
The Falcons May Have Found Their Closers
Or should we say “Scordarrelle Patterson”?
Even if you don’t like the nickname, you can’t say that he hasn’t deserved the recognition. Out of 38 touchdowns scored since he has been on the roster, Patterson has scored 13 of them. That accounts for more than one-third of the end zone trips for the Atlanta Falcons.
That may not make you a closer, but consistent play at the end of games will. On the drive that ended unceremoniously in a Marcus Mariota lost fumble, Patterson showed off his ability to keep the Atlanta Falcons offense on the field. Patterson kept them on schedule with an average of 7.5 yards per carry, including an 18-yard romp off left tackle to get the Falcons toward mid-field. The drive ended up in field goal range before the turnover, and when Richie Grant did get the ball back to the offense, Patterson decided to put them away for good.
Patterson’s two five-yard gains on the final drive eradicated the last few percentage points on the probability scale that offenses in the past had trouble eliminating.
That’s right. The entire stadium knew where the ball was headed, and the closer for this Atlanta Falcons offense decided it didn’t matter.
Every broadcast discusses his kick-return prowess and how it contributes to his one-cut ability as a running back. What is not being discussed is how his 6.2 yards per carry are sixth-most in the league and the most by anyone with over 50 rushing attempts. Or how his 100.7 yards per game is the third-most in the league, and his 17 first downs by rushing, the most in the league.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: The Atlanta Falcons have a running back that they can rely on again.
While the offense thrives, the defense hasn’t necessarily been stout in 2022. There have been flashes and bright spots that can give the Falcons fans hope for improvement, but to push them over the top, they need somebody to make a play at the end of games.
Geno Smith and company got the ball off the Mariota turnover and drove down the field. Then, the Seattle defense showed a hole in their armor. Mykal Walker forced a hold on offensive guard Damien Lewis to force them into a second and long. A slight inconvenience that is followed by a six-yard screen that made a would-be third-and-long, third and eight. Much more manageable.
Defenses of old would find a way to give Geno Smith four or five seconds to find the open receiver and keep the drive alive. But not this one. Not this iteration of the Falcons defense. Grady Jarrett would not allow center Austin Blythe to touch his hands as he chopped his way into the pocket and demolished Geno Smith and any momentum that Seattle had mustered.
And, for Jarrett, that wasn’t enough, early pressure on the 4th down attempt forced Smith out of the pocket and into a bad throw that ultimately ended up in the hands of Grant. The ball game was over.
Atlanta’s defense has been quite underwhelming throughout the season but Jarrett’s ability to help finish off this game gives hope that things may be looking up for the future. His leadership ability will be the saving grace for a particularly young Falcons defense.
Future Atlanta Falcons Closers?
In a rebuild, you would think that the primetime performers at the end of the games may be a bit younger. It makes sense. The entire foundation of a rebuild is built on the long-term productivity of the team’s young talent.
And for the most part, the Falcons are relying on their young talent for production. Their top talents in the receiving game are two top-ten draft picks in the last two seasons. Outside of Grady Jarrett and Lorenzo Carter, the defensive line is littered with individual contributors from the last two drafts. From Arnold Ebiketie and Deangelo Malone to Ta’Quon Graham.
It’s an exciting and fun time to be a Falcons fan (never thought I’d say that again). If there is anything that this trip to the west coast has taught us, it is that this team is young, scrappy, and won’t go down without a fight.
As Terry Fontenot builds this roster back up, the Atlanta Falcons faithful will find other potential closers emerge. However, having veterans like Patterson and Jarrett take the pressure off these young, talented players and allow them to develop their leadership abilities. Hell, A.J. Terrell has already reached captain status in only year three. Who’s next? Kyle Pitts? Drake London? Mykal Walker?
After years of wondering how much talent is on this roster, it’s nice to have a bit of hope going into the future.