While the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons improved to 4-3 on the season last Sunday with a narrow road victory over the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, head coach Arthur Smith received an inquiry from the league office about his usage of rookie running back Bijan Robinson. He apparently had an illness and was only limited to 11 snaps and one carry on the afternoon in Tampa.
The NFL is doing its part to see if Smith misused the injury report to his advantage, but he is not the least bit concerned about what you or the NFL thinks. He is trying to win as many games as possible with an improved defense and a frustrating offense that goes to the beat of his own drum. Smith is not for everyone, but his brashness and us vs. them mentality is really serving the Falcons right now.
When asked about the NFL's inquiry, here is what Smith told Michael Rothstein of ESPN about it all.
"You're talking about sensationalized things. I understand outrage and drama sells. Guys, like, if you really understand how things really operate that there's nothing, there's nothing there. So I don't know what, I haven't given one second of thought about it."
While Smith's Falcons are 2-0 in divisional play, they have a big road game this week, as Smith will take on one of his mentors and former employer in Mike Vrabel's Tennessee Titans up in Nashville.
Let's discuss the ethicality of Smith not fully disclosing the health of Robinson in Week 7's game.
Arthur Smith not willing to play nice over the Bijan Robinson situation
Look. At the end of the day, you still have to make plays. The Falcons made more than the Buccaneers did last Sunday. While red-zone woes at the hands of quarterback Desmond Ridder nearly handed the game to Tampa, Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers offense had a challenging time regularly moving the sticks on Ryan Nielsen's defense. That is the big story in Atlanta this year.
On paper, this might be the most talented team in the weak NFC South. Guys like Jessie Bates III and Calais Campbell have joined a defense that already prominently featured Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell. That side of the ball is really good for the Falcons. However, Smith's ground-centric nature as a former offensive guard himself has not just fantasy football players pulling their hair out this season.
If Robinson would have been able to play more in the game, that would have certainly made things harder for Todd Bowles' Tampa Bay defense. Regardless, his side of the ball needed to slow down Tyler Allgeier and the ageless Cordarrelle Patterson, who got the bulk of the carries instead of Robinson. A triple-headed rushing attack could get Atlanta to double-digit wins, but could cost them.
Eventually, they are going to need to rely on Ridder to make more plays in the passing game. While he is throwing the ball with more conviction in recent weeks in terms of yardage, he has shown a proclivity for turning the ball over. He does seem to be a guy his teammates rally behind, but as soon as the Falcons stop winning close games, more and more people are going to start to turn on Smith.
Ultimately, I think we are all making a mountain out of a mole hill with this. Could Smith get fined? Sure, whatever. I doubt this will cost the Falcons something more substantial like a draft pick. Regardless, not until we see Smith's offense really take flight at all levels and consistently play complementary football can we see this team be anything more than a division winner than can win one playoff game.
No matter what transpires the rest of the way, the NFC South race is compelling and so far from over.