Falcons Made Statement After ‘Big-Boy Fight,’ Says Arthur Smith

Caleb Huntley and Cordarrelle Patterson

Getty The Falcons made "a statement" by winning a "big-boy fight in Week 4.

Arthur Smith knows the identity of the Atlanta Falcons offense in 2022. He saw it deliver a 23-20 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 4.

The Falcons won with a brute-force brand of football that kept things simple and the ball out of the hands of mistake-prone quarterback Marcus Mariota. It also helped Smith’s team make “a statement” by winning what he dubbed a “big-boy fight.”

Smith Explains Falcons’ ‘Statement’ Game

There wasn’t anything subtle about the way the Falcons attacked the Browns. It was all about the running game.

The Falcons ran the ball 35 times and gained 202 yards in the process. Two of those runs accounted for both of Atlanta’s touchdowns on the day, including Cordarrelle Patterson’s 13-yard scamper in the first quarter:

Patterson’s contribution to the overall rushing effort was all part of what Smith called his team’s “statement,” per Josh Kendall of The Athletic: “We were going to make a statement, and that’s what we did. When the line is running like that, that’s what you call being in a flow. Proud of those guys. We knew it was going to be a big-boy fight. I always felt the team that ran the ball better was going to win today, and that held true, thankfully.”

This was also the second time this season the Falcons have topped 200 yards on the ground. Smith’s ground attack gained 201 against the New Orleans Saints in the opening week.

Smith believes being able to boss defenses ready for the run is the ultimate proof of how well his offense is playing, according to Kendall:

The head coach’s reference to a “big-boy fight” was apt, considering the Browns are a rugged team with a punishing running game of their own. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are dynamic backs with Pro-Bowl pedigrees, but the Falcons were able to upstage them with Patterson, a fifth-round draft pick and a player only promoted from the practice squad barely 24 hours before the game.

Falcons Winning With Running Back Committee

Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone shared the wealth between a cadre of running backs in Week 4. Rookie Tyler Allgeier played the most snaps, while Patterson got onto the field 16 times, despite being a doubt with a knee injury.

ESPN’s Michael Rothstein shared the snap counts that show how Patterson and fifth-rounder Allgeier split 40 snaps between them:

Those snaps translated to 10 rushing attempts for Allgeier, while Patterson toted the rock a further nine times. What also stands out from the snap counts is the 15 played by fullback Keith Smith.

Fullback has long been a forgotten position in the NFL, but the Falcons are one of the clutch of teams still incorporating the role in their offense. It’s all about establishing a mentality based on power and toughness, qualities a 240-pound lead-blocker like Smith embodies.

Smith was among those who got on the field to congratulate Caleb Huntley, after the latter scored his first NFL touchdown. Huntley went over from five yards early in the fourth quarter to cap a drive he’d powered, per Falcons Beat Reporter Tori McElhaney:

Huntley’s 10 carries for 56 yards represented a far-from-shabby effort from a player signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021. Huntley only made it onto the gameday roster on Saturday, October 1, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The success of unheralded players like Huntley and Allgeier was a direct result of Smith’s commitment to the running game. His groundhog approach not only helped eager offensive linemen like Kaleb McGary thrive, but it also protected Mariota from himself.

It was no coincidence Smith called those 14-straight running plays after Mariota had been picked by Browns’ cornerback Denzel Ward in the third quarter. The turnover moved Mariota closer to the most mistake-prone QB in football this season, a signal-caller the Falcons know well, per New Millennium Falcons co-host Tre’Shon:

Keeping the ball on the ground not only helps Mariota be more efficient, it also plays to the strengths of this offense and protects an improving defense. The Falcons have found a formula that works, one as old as the game itself but still brutally effective in football’s modern era.