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The Tennessee Titans missed having former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith during their 25-point loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but the new Atlanta Falcons head coach also faced some Week One misery after a damning loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Talking to the media over the 32-6 defeat against the Jalen Hurts-led Eagles, Arthur Smith gave anxious fans and reporters insight on the flat performances from Atlanta’s rookie class — including No. 4 pick: “unicorn” tight end Kyle Pitts — and how the coaching staff must focus on improving the passing game after the team mustered only two field goals on Sunday.
Pitts finished his debut with 31 yards on four catches, while Matt Ryan completed 21-of-35 passes for 164 yards.
“Certainly, try to get [Pitts] going early,” commented the head coach. “Didn’t do it, but he stayed with it. Made a pretty tough catch on fourth down when we went for it on fourth down. It wasn’t pretty, but he executed it. Matt was under duress there. They had a pretty good call there, but again, that’s what a veteran quarterback does.”
Smith advised the reporters not give up on Pitts after one game, and how the rookie’s hustle is a telltale of good things ahead. “Give Kyle credit. Again, that’s not a flashy play in the stat sheet, but that was a conversion when we needed to when you take the risk and go for it on fourth down.”
With star receiver Julio Jones’ departure from Atlanta, the No. 2 role in Atlanta opened up for Pitts or fourth-year receiver Russell Gage to assume behind Calvin Ridley. Gage’s stat line became a flatline: Garnering two targets and zero receptions for the day.
Arthur Smith saw the omission of aggressively inserting Gage into the game plan, and how his involvement will improve going forward.
“Got into the game – multiple times – I mean all of those guys, I have to do a better job of getting him and Russ [Gage] into the game early.” said Smith. “Russell Gage, there were some opportunities. The thing I can’t say enough about Russell Gage, like a lot of guys, it’s like basketball, people want to touch the ball. I have to do a better job of getting them the ball early, but Russell is a real pro because he battled. He battled. I told him this morning. It says a lot about your character when the ball doesn’t go your way in how he competed. I have to do a better job there.”
Arthur Smith and new defensive coordinator Dean Pees have a load of work to accomplish after the crushing loss to rookie head coach Nick Sirriani — but with an upcoming five game featuring the Giants, Jets and Washington Football Team, Atlanta may be granted some time to get their act together before wins and losses start to take on more significance.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela