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Downtrodden Atlanta Falcons must rise up with wings as eagles

A pass deflection by New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib helped seal the victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

A pass deflection by New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib helped seal the victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Atlanta Falcons (1-3) are two games under .500 for the first time in the Matt Ryan and Mike Smith era after losing by a score of 30-23 to the New England Patriots (4-0) in primetime. This marks the first time they have lost back to back games since 2009.

Four weeks into the 2013 season after coming off a heartbreaking loss in the 2012 NFC Championship to the San Francisco 49ers and having a “Super Bowl or bust” mentality, the Falcons are in a position they’ve never been, nor expected to be in.

Losing in the spotlight

At halftime it looked like this would be another nail biter for the Falcons.

Then, in the 3rd and early 4th quarters, the Patriots began to run away with it as the Falcons gave up three plays of 40 or more yards.

On 3rd and 29, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady connected with wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins for a first down. The next play — a 47-yard touchdown run by LaGarrette Blount to put New England up 20-10.

The Falcons were unable to capitalize in the red zone. The recorded a league-high six red-zone trips — only one of which they converted into a touchdown. After the Patriots scored a touchdown and a field goal to take a 30-13 lead with 6:18 left to play, the game appeared to be over.

Their backs against the wall, the Falcons scored a touchdown with 4:22 left to play, following it up with a successful onside kick. Rookie tight end Levin Toilolo then dropped a touchdown pass on 3rd down inside the red zone, forcing Atlanta to kick a field goal with 2:55 remaining.

Down 30-23, the Falcons had to make a stand. On 4th and one, Tom Brady fumbled the snap on an apparent attempt at a quarterback sneak.

Falcons ball.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, quarterback Matt Ryan threw a beautiful 49-yard bomb to wide receiver Julio Jones, who made an equally gorgeous catch.

Two incompletions and a short pass later, the Falcons stared at 4th and seven on the Patriots’ 10-yard line. Ryan made a good throw to wide receiver Roddy White on a well-run route. Cornerback Aqib Talib made an even better play.

Game over. Another heartbreaking loss for the Falcons.

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith (center) and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (right) must find ways to make their depth effective with so many injuries.

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith (center) and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (right) must find ways to make their depth effective with so many injuries.

Coaching

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made his intentions clear leading up to this game: stop Julio Jones. He was successful, until the 4th quarter. Tight end Tony Gonzalez had a great game, taking advantage of the attention Jones was diverting to haul in 12 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

Jones came through when the Falcons needed him most — on their final drive. But Belichick masterfully switched his focus to the huge red-zone threat of Gonzalez, doubling him on the line in press coverage. Gonzalez couldn’t get off the line, much less run a route. Belichick was able to effectively neuter Atlanta’s biggest passing threat and maintain a great run defense despite losing his best defensive tackle.

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and head coach Mike Smith proved they cannot outcoach the injuries their squad has suffered. With Jones doubled all game, White not playing at 100 percent, and Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork injured early in the game, they couldn’t find a way to make anyone besides Gonzalez effective.

Fifth-year receiver Harry Douglas was out performed by a rookie undrafted free agent at his same position. Is it a lack of skill evaluation and or sheer stubbornness on the part of this coaching staff that keeps him on the roster?

Was the problem ineffective game planning? Or is this all on the players? Do the players simply have to “make it happen”?

The Falcons offense have made some mistakes on key plays this year. But should they be expected to make big plays week in and week out? The defense is paid to make plays in pivotal moments too, as we witnessed when Talib made that great deflection.

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez played like he wanted a Super Bowl Sunday night, but it slipped further away in the heartbreaking loss.

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez played like he wanted a Super Bowl Sunday night, but it slipped further away in the heartbreaking loss.

Any team reliant on the big play to win is bound to come up short in some games. That’s what is happening with this team. Everyone knows Atlanta can make those plays; we’ve witnessed it. Now the coaches must to find a way to capitalize on the roster depth they have to compensate when the stars are hurt or opposing teams key off on the ones who remain.

Super Bowl hopes

So are the Atlanta Falcons still in the Super Bowl race?

Just barely. Sitting at 1-3, they are in a position where only nine percent of teams have been able to make the playoffs since 1990.

Next week the New York Jets (2-2) come to town. This is a must-win game. The Falcons need to head into the bye at 2-3.

The most important thing is for this Falcons team to get healthy. Roddy White should sit. Giving him two weeks off should put him close to full health after the bye, when running back Steven Jackson (thigh) is expected back. Having two huge red-zone threats should help fix their woes inside the 20. Cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) should be healthy by then as well.

Coming out of the bye, Atlanta hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4), who are making a strong case for the number one pick in the 2014 draft. After that they go on the road to play the Arizona Cardinals (2-2), who are scraping by to get wins. Then, in perhaps the most important of the next four games, they visit division-rival Carolina Panthers (1-2).

If they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Falcons must position themselves at 5-3, because their schedule gets brutal as the season progresses.

Falcons, it’s time to rise up — before it’s too late.

1081 comments
Rarely Evenn
Rarely Evenn

The Bucs have a top 10 defense 4 weeks into the season (9th). We made guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees look like average joes. We're 0-4. I wish the offense was as well coached as the d is.

adambballn
adambballn

Oh boy... I forgot the Bears have Kromer now... that should help next week.

Rarely Evenn
Rarely Evenn

It could be worse, Falcons. You could be playing nearly dominant defense the whole game and then your offense doesn't deliver in crunch time, like the Bucs.

Brady is the GOAT. Fact. Peroid.
Brady is the GOAT. Fact. Peroid. moderator

Barring anything amazing tonight, Im voting for Gonzo for NFCS gameball. He made be 54 but the dude still has it.

Eric Ebron did nothing wrong
Eric Ebron did nothing wrong

haha love this quote from a recap of the Texans game

"With Schaub looking about as comfortable as a man preparing for a colonoscopy, the smart play was to have him hand the ball to Arian Foster and let the star halfback try to run for the sticks behind a powerful offensive line."

natesweet
natesweet moderator

@Buhlitz What is weird is that it does not seem that way from my perspective. 34 is a very common chest size. It is the cup size that is important. 

natesweet
natesweet moderator

@Buhlitz I am not sure that is the case. I think it might be proof evolution is broken in man. 

natesweet
natesweet moderator

@NightStalkerThief @Natesweet @Buhlitz I mean on an hourly bases that has nothing to do with weight gain. My ex wife's would go from a small b cup to a d cup and back and forth throughout the day. But yes, milk was the culprit.