For the third straight week, the Atlanta Falcons have lost a winnable game.
And each loss is more inexplicable and embarrassing than the last one.
This Sunday, the team that benefitted from the Falcons’ incompetence was the Arizona Cardinals, who before the game was 8 and 1, whose quarterback, Kyler Murray, had not seen play since December 13, last year when an injury kept him off the field until today, where in his re-emergence back into the NFL for the first time in nearly a year, he got the comeback gift of a 25-23 win against the undeniably struggling Falcons.
The Falcons are now 6-4 in a moribund NFC South, slipping to third behind the Saints (5-5) and the Buccaneers (4-5). Only the Panthers (1-8) stand between the Falcons and 4th place.
The Falcons are not without talent, which makes these losses so maddening. Plus, the Dirty Birds should have had no problems beating underperforming teams like the now 8 -2 Cardinals, even on their home turf. Now they have lost their last three games to…
The Arizona Cardinals, see above
The Minnesota Vikings, who had a backup quarterback in the first game of his career as a Viking.
The Tennessee Titans, who had a backup quarterback in the first game of his NFL career.
Nothing explains back to back to back losses better than a complete breakdown in coaching, offense, and in the last few games, defense, which earlier in the season was a bright spot in the team. Now there are clearly team-wide problems that are too recurring and debilitating to ignore.
Arizona got on the board first, with a field goal. No one scored a touchdown until the second quarter, where the Falcons scored two touchdowns from Scotty Miller (2 yards) and Bijan Robinson (5 yards.) The Cardinals scored a TD and a FG. The Falcons took a 1 point lead into halftime.
Then the wheels came off.
In the third quarter, the Cards snook ahead with a Jeff Prater FG. Then the Falcons snatched the lead back with an FG from reliable kicker Younghoe Koo. That lead would be short-lived, as Arizona’s Greg Dortch took a Falcons punt return 49 yards to Atlanta territory, then Claybone Tune ran for a yard to score the Cards’ second TD.
The fourth quarter saw Atlanta’s backup quarterback Taylor Heinike leaving the game due to a hamstring injury, and out comes starting QB Desmond Ridder. Ridder, considering his performance issues in previous games, was likely the last person Falcon fans wanted to see with the ball, but to his credit, he didn’t commit any major errors. In fact, he gave the team its second-game touchdown. 6 points were all they could get, however, due to a failed 2 point conversion.
With three minutes left in the game, the Falcons needed a defensive stop and didn’t get one. What came instead was Falcons’ defense chasing Murray around the field running 35 yards, and getting a 1st down in the process. That enabled the Cardinals’ kill shot, a Murray deep throw to Trey McBride to the 5-yard line. All Arizona had to do was kick the FG to win the game, which, of course, they did.
Before the injury, Heinike went 8 of 15 for 55 passing yards. Murray went 19 of 32 for 249 passing yards. Robinson got 95 rushing yards for 22 carries and a TD. Drake London got 3 receptions for 36 receiving yards.
Head Coach Arthur Smith after the game told the press he was “frustrated” with the team’s repeated losses, but said there would be no staff adjustments to deal with the team’s issues. He also said in that same presser that they would “look at everything.”
At this point, maybe the whole team, including the coach, should look at themselves. Do they want to be a winning team or not?
Because right now, they aren’t.
The Falcons now go to a bye week before they face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, November 26. They need it.
|BY THE NUMBERS
|Atlanta Falcons (4-6) 23
|Arizona Cardinals (2-8) 25✅
|Third Down Conversions