At 2-7 to start the game (now 2-8 after a 41-28 loss to the Bucs), Smith came into the coin toss with a change of plans. Always a stickler for consistency and routine, Smith takes the ball to start the game whenever possible. After winning the coin toss, the Falcons surprisingly deferred and kicked to start the game.
From there, it was on to some player changes. Center Peter Konz was moved back to his rookie year position at right guard and Joe Hawley came in to start under quarterback Matt Ryan. After yielding three sacks, Smith benched Konz in favor of the previous starter at that position, Garrett Reynolds.
“We moved some guys around on the offensive line, wanting to get what we felt was our best five combination,” Smith said. “It did not work as well as we would liked. The quarterback was hit too many times.”
Ryan was sacked those three times, all by Bucs DT Gerald McCoy, and hit eight times in the game. The offensive line wasn’t the only place Smith started to experiment during the game.
Rookie safety Zeke Motta came in during the second half to replace veteran Thomas DeCoud. Undrafted rookie tackle Ryan Schraeder got some looks at right tackle. Veteran RB Antone Smith made the most of a few carries to put together an 88-yard, one-touchdown performance in less than a half of work.
It wasn’t pretty, but Mike Smith said after the game that plenty of players are going to get looks in the coming weeks.
“The way that we played was unacceptable. The way that we coached is unacceptable,” Mike Smith said. “We’ve got to continue to work. We’ve got to continue to try to find answers and mix and match with the people in place that will help us win football games.”