Playoff Hopes Fade as Wobbly Falcons Lose Again

The Atlanta Falcons lost to the Carolina Panthers 9-7 today.

But there’s more to that shoe-sized score than that. The Panthers are dead last among NFC teams and were until today 1-12. The Dirty Birds helped them “improve” to 2-12. The only touchdown in the game came from the Falcons. All of the Panther’s points came from field goals.

Sundays in Atlanta for sports fans has become a depressing experience lately. The Falcons are an underachieving team. They are loaded with talent, but they are stepping over their own feet and making the same mistakes repeatedly, game after game.

This Sunday’s mistake (again!): turnovers. Two of them. One by the usually unflappable RB Bijan Robinson, and the most costly, by repeat offender Desmond Ridder, the Falcons’ season-and-a-half starting quarterback who once again cost his team by throwing a pick-six in the red zone at the worst possible time.

The Panthers took advantage of that costly error by executing a long drive that would carve mojo time off the clock and slam the door on the Falcons late in the fourth quarter. The Panthers kicked the winning field goal and handed the Falcons another embarrassing loss that made even the most optimistic Falcons fan clinch their teeth in disgust. The Dirty Birds are now 6-8 for the year.

As for their playoff hopes, they have downgraded in three short weeks from leading the NFC South to dropping to a wild card slot, to now “in the hunt”, with hopes fading to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention in the next two weeks. The Falcons have three games left in the regular season (the 8-6 Colts, 5-9 Bears, and the 7-7 Saints). The Saints and Buccaneers both won today, locking the Falcons out of first place in the NFC South.

Coach Arthur Smith, who is one of those in the Falcons camp getting hit with criticism as of late due to his team’s inconsistency, stepped up to the podium again like so many other after-game press conferences, to comment on another inexplicable Falcons loss.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do going in there,” he said. “It wasn’t for lack of effort. We didn’t make enough plays.”

The lack of offense is one culprit for the loss. Looking back at the last four Falcons wins, all of the games were decided by less than 9 points. The last sizable victory by the Falcons was the season opener against Carolina, a 14-point difference. The Falcons have not had a game this season where they defeated their opponent by 20 points or more. (The last blowout win the Falcons had was against the Las Vegas Raiders, a 43-6, 27-point rout on Nov 29, 2020.) The Falcons have been offensively comatose and not putting opponents away for some time, especially this season, and opponents count on offensive shortfalls like this.

“The thing that has hurt us most is the turnovers,” he said, alluding to another recurring Falcons problem. “When you do that, you lose.”

The reality for the Falcons is as cold and dreary as the weather was in Bank America Stadium in Charlotte today. Ridder is not the guy to lead the Falcons to victories. Too many turnovers over too many games. Sure the Falcons as a whole are struggling, but today’s loss is mainly thanks to Ridder’s 4th quarter red zone interception. That error cost them a win, and whatever chance of going to the playoffs they had before today.

The score wasn’t a blowout, 10 points between them, but it’s mighty enough to blow a hole through the Falcons’ playoff chances.

by Brian Allen, founding editor, Sports In The ATL

KEY PLAYERS Atlanta Falcons Carolina Panthers
Passing Desmond Ridder (12-20, 152 yrds., 1 TD, 1 Int.) Bryce Young (18-24, 167 yrds.)
Rushing Tyler Allgeier (14 car., 45 yrds.)Β  Chuba Hubbard (22 car. 87 yrds.)
Receiving Jonnu Smith (2 rec., 61 yrds.) Adam Thielen (r rec., 43 yrds.)
BY THE NUMBERS Atlanta Falcons (6-8) 7 Carolina Panthers (2-12) 9βœ…
Score trend 0-7-0-0 0-3-0-6
Total Yards 204 283
Pass Yards 152 154
Rush Yards 52 129
First Downs 12 17
Yards per Play 4.0 4.5
Third Down Conversions 6/13 5/15
Penalties/Yards 4/25 4/35
Turnovers 2 (1 fum. 1int.) 0
Time Possession 26:04 33:56