The Falcons fell to the Detroit Lions 23-22 in Atlanta yesterday, pushing their record to 1-6 on the year. Now, they enter a short week with Carolina on the docket Thursday night.
While some fans want to see this team lose every game for the sake of draft position, winning games is the best way to attract a new head coach. The Falcons can be a contender, but we won’t see this come true until we have an idea of who will be running this team in 2021. Also, tanking doesn’t work in the NFL; just ask the Jaguars, Jets, Giants, and other teams who always select near the top. This isn’t basketball.
If Raheem Morris really wants to be considered as a long term solution, how he prepares the team as they get ready to face Carolina on Thursday night will be telling. The last time the Falcons faced the Panthers, it resulted in Arthur Blank firing head coach Dan Quinn. While Morris won’t get fired, it could be a crucial game to give him the credibility he needs.
Defense is living up to their name
Matthew Stafford played his first game in the state of Georgia since leading the Bulldogs in 2008. He capped off his 340-yard performance with a 75-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown to tight end TJ Hockenson. On the day, Stafford went 25 for 36 with 340 yards and one touchdown. While both quarterbacks had near exact numbers, Stafford faced a much more favorable defense that allows an average of 335 yards per game.
On the ground, however, the Falcons continued to stick to form. Neither Adrian Peterson or DeAndre Swift broke 30 yards. On 20 combined carries, they totaled 57 on the ground. It’s pretty easy to realize the pass defense is what is holding back this team. Their soft coverage during the 2-minute drill showed just how easy it is to go 75 yards against them.
In Morris’ post-game interview, he noted how bad the defense was on the final drive and expressed they have to be more stout.
“We gotta be better finishers. Our rush has to get home. We have to get to the quarterback in those moments. You gotta have the ability to pick off the ball when a guy’s scrambling around throwing it in the air. We gotta find a way to finish the game better. We didn’t get it done.”
Can we stop using Matt Ryan as a scapegoat?
There’s not much more Ryan can prove at this point. He once again went over 300 yards passing with a completion rate of 74 percent. His performance against Detroit was similar to his game against Minnesota; the only difference is he threw three less touchdown passes against the Lions.
With that being said, Detroit has been pretty good at stopping quarterbacks. The difference between them and Atlanta is 842 yards, with the Lions having played one less game. So while Stafford did pass for two more yards than Ryan, Ryan did it against a defense that averages 235 yards per game compared to the 335 yards per game the Falcons let up. Matt Ryan’s 74 percent completion rate is also well above the 61.8 percent that the Lions allow on average.
So to continuously place the blame on the quarterback and his style of play is asinine as he continues to show he can perform at a high level. The Falcons have already stated neither him nor Julio Jones will be traded this season.
Matt Ryan is now slated to throw for 4,985 yards and 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions. As we enter Week 8, he is the number one passer in the NFL with 2,181 passing yards and 12 touchdown passes.
What is Dirk Koetter doing?
With the Falcons down 16-14, Dirk Koetter sticks to his guns and calls a draw play on 2nd and 13 that results in a loss of yards and forces another long third down. Throughout the game, Koetter consistently chose to run the ball on first and second down, but they never amounted to much. Todd Gurley went for 63 yards on 23 carries with one score.
Those are mighty poor numbers considering the Lions allow over 145 yards per game on the ground. Gurley’s 2.7 yards per carry was also well below the 5 yards per carry the Lions have let up so far this season.
However, Atlanta found another way to blow a game with their late-game management. The biggest blunder on the day was calling a run play when the Lions had no timeouts and a fresh set of downs for Atlanta. With just over a minute left to play, instead of kneeling and setting up kicker Younghoe Koo for an easy game-winner, Koetter decides to hand the ball off, and Detroit intentionally allows the Falcons to score. If you watched Indiana upset Penn State Saturday evening, then you knew what to expect.
The 2020 Atlanta Falcons: The Meme Team pic.twitter.com/m6Q8MdKCWf
— #BringMeBieniemy (@mattkaroly) October 26, 2020
Keep in mind, Gurley fumbled the ball the play prior. While he was able to recover his own fumble, the idea that the Falcons should be doing anything but kneel is absurd.
Gurley will be a professional and shoulder much of the blame. However, it’s important to understand just how poor Koetter is at managing late-game scenarios.
“I’ll man up, take the responsibility. Tried to go down but I didn’t. Trying is not good enough, so just got to do better on my behalf.”
We can agree that Dirk Koetter isn’t to blame for the debacle against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2. However, this isn’t the first time he’s shown his inability to chew game clock this season. With the Falcons up 16 against Chicago and just over 10 minutes left to play, Koetter called 6 pass plays — out of 9 total plays — and they all fell incomplete, resulting in three 3-and-outs.
The Falcons had a win probability as high as 98.7%, per ESPN's win probability model.
It was Atlanta's 3rd loss this season with a win probability of at least 98%, the most by a team in the last 20 seasons.
The rest of the NFL has 4 such losses combined this season. pic.twitter.com/EqJnds0et1
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 25, 2020
Tight ends continue to hurt Atlanta
It was only fitting that a tight end would pull in the game-winner on National Tight End Day. However, the Falcons have had issues covering tight ends all season long. Altogether, they have totaled for 500 yards and eight touchdowns. Most notably was the poor performance against Robert Tonyan in Week 4. Tonyan scored three times and totaled 98 yards through the air.
Honorable Mention: What is this officiating?
— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) October 26, 2020
Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire