Falcons Don’t ‘Rise Up’ to Commander’s Challenge, Lose 24-16 at Home

At midmorning Sunday, game day, before they met the Atlanta Falcons on their home turf at Mercedes Benz Stadium, the Washington Commanders fired an opening shot at the Falcons on social media.

The Falcons could have used this insult to fuel their performance against their visitors today. Instead, the Dirty Birds ran on empty and succumbed to an embarrassing loss to a team that had a worse win-loss record (2-3 before today’s game) than the Falcons and was still recovering from a 40-20 thrashing by the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football.

The Falcons lost to the Commanders 24-16. But there was more to that score than the obvious loss. One look at the numbers and highlights shows a Falcons team whose offense is not complementing its defense, whose QB still is not making plays accurately and a coach who isn’t calling plays well consistently. The Falcons seem like a team that to quote an old R&B song/Richard Pryor flick, doesn’t know which way is up.

The Falcons’ performance has been flighty this year, with the peak so far being the come-from-behind victory last Sunday against the Texans. But this is their worst loss this season and the way they are losing games is trying everyone’s patience. Desmond Ridder threw three interceptions today, one of which led to a Washington drive that netted a touchdown. He was sacked three times by Commanders defense. Ridder kept throwing the ball to unavailable receivers and at one point, under duress by DC’s pass-rush, threw the ball to the sidelines, netting him an intentional grounding flag.

The Falcons went for it on 4th down twice and came up empty both times. Those were coach Arthur Smith‘s calls.

These errors are becoming habit-forming for the Dirty Birds. As Falcons Senior Content Producer Tori McElhaney pointed out after the game in an X post…

Not to say that everything about the Falcons’ work today was bad. The defense handled themselves well. The Falcons got 5 sacks today, one of which belonged to Calais Campbell, the 100th of his career. It was their work that kept this game from getting worse than it could have been.

But the Falcons as a whole, who are now 3-3 for the year and 3-4 in home games so far this regular season, have yet to show consistent growth from game to game which has been an ongoing complaint among Falcons fans. Ridder bought himself some goodwill last week after that clutch play at the tail end of the Texans game, but based on social media reactions, that goodwill has now expired. And now the “should Heinke come in” question is reprising itself.

Ridder went 28 of 47 for 307 yards. A glaring number considering the Commanders Sam Howell went 14 of 23 for 151 yards. He got two touchdowns but turned over the ball three times. Three more than Howell did and three times too many.

Both Smith and Ridder looked noticeably uncomfortable at the aftergame press conference. Smith, whose stoic/shocked looks on the sidelines are already becoming social media memes, blamed the Falcons turnovers on “miscommunication.” He told the press that the ill-fated 2-point conversion move when his team was down by two touchdowns was made because “we did it in LA…we did it in Tampa last year.”

He acknowledged that turning over the ball repeatedly was hurting the Falcons. “We’re making it hard on ourselves,” he said.

He said one more thing at the presser that no one can deny…”we got to do a better job.”

The Falcons face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1 as of this writing) next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Washington Commanders: By The Numbers

Falcons (3-3) 16 Commanders (3-3) 24✅
Total Yards 402 193
Passing Yards 296 121
Rushing Yards 106 72
1st Downs 25 13
3rd Downs 5 (15 attempts) 2 (10)
4th Downs 1 (3) 1 (1)
Penalties/ Yards 4/31 6/40
Turnovers 3 0
Time of Possession 36:23 23:37

Credits: Washington Commanders/X, Tori McElhaney/X, Miles Garrett/ X