The Falcons were the popular pick of week 10 by virtually everyone. Fans, analysts, even Vegas saw them as a clear favorite on the road facing a reeling Browns team, losers of four straight. The Falcons, on the other hand, were coming off three straight wins and announcing themselves back into the playoff picture after a 1-4 start. Nonetheless, this was still a critical game in the grand scheme of things with so many NFC teams bunched up for two Wild Card spots. It was as close to a must-win as it gets with the Cowboys, Saints, Ravens, and Packers standing in front of Atlanta the next four weeks, and the Falcons responded with their worst game of the season.
Here are the three things that stand out from their defeat:
The Browns showed you what the NFL is all about
First off, this wasn’t a Cleveland Browns team that was the worst team in the NFL or even among them. This is a budding young group with talent all over the field and hungry for wins. In the NFL, that can be a nightmare for anyone coming into their house underprepared. That’s exactly what the Falcons did after their 38-14 trouncing of the Redskins the week before.
I believe Matt Ryan said something along the lines of this prior to the matchup, but I’m just going to reiterate it: This isn’t college. Things change from week to week and every team has a chance on any given Sunday. If you sleep walk into an opponent’s stadium, you deserve to get run out of the building.
Ryan may have acknowledged it the week leading up to the game, but it was obvious the team wasn’t ready for the amount of obstacles the Browns could pose. Atlanta was whipped on the offensive and defensive lines, dismantled by a group of receivers you probably have not heard before and ultimately sent packing by Nick Chubb and his thunderous thighs.
Atlanta’s defense is really, really bad
I did not want to get too far ahead of myself talking about the Falcons improved defense coming off of three straight wins. The fact is the offenses they played the last two weeks had major issues. The Giants can’t protect Eli Manning if their life depended on it, and the Redskins are probably the least explosive team in the NFL. Shutting them down was nice, but any other result would have been a giant red flag.
Cleveland reminded us what this defense really is. The starting cornerbacks have been inconsistent all season and this might have been their worst performance to date. Both Alford and Trufant were beaten all day, as Mayfield nearly put up a perfect passer rating, going 17/20 for 216 yards and three touchdowns. The pass rush went back to being non-existent up against an adequate offensive line. They came up with no sacks on Mayfield who was rarely even pressured. And finally, the tackling among this group is absolutely atrocious to watch. Defenders were bouncing of Nick Chubb’s legs like they were bumper cars.
The only positive thing: Deion Jones is scheduled to return next week. His presence has been sorely missed, but the time without him has shown the Falcons defense has a lot more holes than originally thought, even when healthy. It will be focus #1 heading into the 2019 offseason.
Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb are a special tandem
These two went back-and-forth, trading punches 11 months ago in Pasadena, California for a shot at the National Title. Of course, Nick Chubb’s Georgia Bulldogs wound up pulling it out in overtime but little did we know, the two would become teammates a few short months later.
You have to think John Dorsey had his eyes peeled to that ball game. He selected Mayfield with the first overall pick and Chubb with the first selection in the second round. It hasn’t been all flowers and butterflies for the first ten weeks of the season, but both of these guys put up career days on Sunday.
Beyond Mayfield’s near-perfect passer rating, the former Sooner displayed incredible arm strength and accuracy the entire afternoon, as well as a little razzle-dazzle, showing the ability to escape pressure and make throws on the run. Chubb carried the ball 20 times for 176 yards, including a franchise-record 92-yard touchdown run. The two of them were the main reasons they were able to crush a team that is two years removed from a Super Bowl berth. There hasn’t been something to be excited about as a Browns fan in a long time, but these two give you more than just hope, they give you a legitimate future.