Struggling Falcons Lose Another Winnable Game

“We felt like we kind of beat ourselves.” – Taylor Heineke, Falcons quarterback.

Another Sunday, another Falcons loss.

For the second consecutive Sunday, the Falcons lost a winnable game. The differences this time were a different team, the Minnesota Vikings,  a new quarterback (Taylor Heinieke for the Falcons, Josh Dobbs for the visiting Vikings), and the loss occurred at home in Mercedes Benz Stadium instead of on the road.

All those things, among others, made today’s 31 to 28 loss to the Vikings feel much worse than your average loss.

This faceplant seems bad enough on paper (or on-screen), but it felt worse because of a laundry list of problems that seem to rear their heads time after time with the Falcons, namely:

  1. Turnovers – ball protection remains a big problem with this team. The Falcons turned over the ball twice today, one a fumble, the other an interception.
  2. Red zone failure – the Falcons had to send in Younghoe Koo* four times to kick in 3 points because the Falcons’ offense could not punch in a touchdown when they entered the red zone. The Falcons finally crossed the goal line late in the 3rd quarter.
  3. Anemic pass rush – The Falcons could not slow down Vikings quarterback Dobbs, freeing him to make plays that tacked on points for the Vikings.
  4. Pass, don’t run – The Falcons’ run game has not been used effectively because of a reliance on a shaky passing game. Passing the ball instead of running the ball has never produced good, consistent results for the Falcons, but head coach Arthur Smith seems stuck on it.

All these things lead to a Vikings victory. Plus, the Falcons’ defense seemed so exhausted at the end of the game that they could not stop the Vikings’ run game near the end of the 4th quarter after the Falcons managed to score a TD which should have sent Dirty Birds fans home celebrating a victory. Instead, the Vikings got the game-winning TD that confirmed the Falcons were heading to life below .500 and a losing record, 4-5 in the lousy NFC South.

While Vikings’ Dobbs, an Atlanta native, deserves credit for driving his team to victory, the fact that the rookie, substituting for injured starting QB Kirk Cousins, was a.) the second consecutive rookie in his first assignment to beat the Falcons, following the Titans’ Will Levis last week and b.) is the second rookie filling in for a starting quarterback, makes this loss especially embarrassing.

Then there’s this to the Dobbs story: Pro Football Talk reports that Dobbs was on the verge of being traded from the Arizona Cardinals Tuesday last week. His agent him he could go to either the Commanders or the Vikings. He made his choice, the rest is history.

Five-day-old Viking Dobbs went 20 of 30 for 158 yards, two touchdowns. Not bad for a first day on the job.

And what about the Falcons’ new passer?

He went 21 for 38 and got 268 yards and a touchdown. Other than one interception, these are great numbers for a quarterback. Bijan Robinson (11 carries, 51 yards) and Jonnu Smith (5 receptions for 100 yards, 1 TD) also put up some good numbers. New acquisition Kentavius Street recovered a Dobbs fumble, and  Calais Campbell even managed to force a safety from the pinned-back Vikings in the 2nd quarter.

But none of those efforts brought home what the Falcons needed most: a win.

Coach Smith, whose stock is starting to droop with fans after two straight losses of winnable games, didn’t make excuses at a press conference after the game but had little in the way of answers either.

“We certainly had an opportunity to win this one,” Smith said. “We are what we are. We’re 4 and 5.”

He agreed that the loss was a “missed opportunity” and acknowledged missed opportunities were costing the Falcons wins. He said little else specific about how these shortcomings would be dealt with to stop future losses.

“We have to play in sync,” he said. “We had opportunities and didn’t take advantage [of them]”

Heinecke had a simpler synopsis of the Falcon’s performance today.

“We feel like we beat ourselves,” he said.

According to Sharp Analysis, the Falcons have the easiest schedule of any team in the NFL. And yet, they are getting beaten by teams they should have no problems getting a win over, at least according to football analytics. (A team with a replacement quarterback who’s just joined within days provides a substantial opportunity for a win.) But who needs numbers and charts to see the Falcons are in trouble, and are consistently making mistakes that are the cause of their own decline?

Something needs to change. The Falcons a week ago were on top of the NFC South and now after this loss, have traded places with the New Orleans Saints, who are the new division leaders. And Falcon fans have long since run out of patience. The question is, does the front office know what the problem (or problems) with the team is, and can they rectify them before they suffer another embarrassing loss like this?

By Brian Allen, founding editor, Sports In The ATL.

BY THE NUMBERS Atlanta Falcons 28


Minnesota Vikings 31✅


Score trend 3-8-10-7 3-7-11-10
Total Yards 370 363
Pass Yards 260 217
Rush Yards 110 146
First Downs 18 23
Third Down Conversions 10 (18) 7 (16)
Penalties/Yards 8 (62) 1 (4)
Turnovers 2 (1 FUM, 1 INT) 2 (FUM)
Time Possession 28:28 31:32

*In a great career achievement for him but another embarrassment for the team he plays for, Falcons beat reporter Terrin Waack reported that Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo was responsible for 43.4% of the team’s points this season. That’s 72 of the team’s overall 166 points. He accounted for half of the Falcon’s 28 points today alone.

Updated 11/6 to add Kentavius Street fumble recovery.