As the all-time Jim Mora quote goes: “What’s that? Ah – Playoffs? Don’t talk about – playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!” His response was to a reporter’s question about making the playoffs following a Colts’ loss to the 49ers, which dropped their record to 4-6 at the time. Indianapolis would go on to win only two more games that 2001 season, as they were hampered by a defense that allowed the most points in the league that year.
A week ago, the Falcons were playoff-hopeful sitting .500 after beating a playoff-caliber Saints team. The Cowboys, who are serious contenders, showed Atlanta how truly far away they are from competing for Super Bowls.
Arthur Smith’s team shows flashes of what it could be, but the severe lack of talent will keep them from playing how they want to play consistently. It isn’t just the personnel dragging this organization down, although the coaching has been impressive at times — this is clearly a first-year head coach’s staff. Most of the time there are struggles with these sort of things. Smith has stumbled at times, but for the most part, he’s been fine and should continue to grow as a head coach.
However, the 2021 Falcons can draw similar parallels to the 2001 Colts, because this Atlanta defense couldn’t stop molasses in wintertime. There is also an off-chance Atlanta makes the playoffs, but it’s more than likely that they’ll be closer to the same fate as Indianapolis; win a handful more games, and that’s it. The Falcons were winning games in spite of the defense, but on Sunday, Dallas’ high-powered offense exposed Dean Pees’ unit. I had hoped Pees would work a miracle — essentially, turning water into wine — with this defense, but that hasn’t been the case. Maybe I overestimated the Falcons defensive personnel; either way, this group is going to be one of the worst in the league, for at least this year.
The Falcons were only ever going to beat the Cowboys on Sunday by answering Dak Prescott’s drives and points with some of their own. The Falcons got down early, became predictable, and it was all over from there. The Falcons failed to convert a fourth-down attempt early in the game, but field goals were never going to beat the Cowboys. Arthur Smith had to be aggressive because he knew his defense was about to be dismantled. Credit must be given to Dan Quinn and the Dallas defense.
After beating his former team, Quinn was rewarded with the game ball. The Falcons offense had to score points, and when they stumbled a bit, the Cowboys were right there to take advantage. “Clearly, we weren’t prepared coming in here,” Arthur Smith said. “We got avalanched in that second quarter and never recovered. The responsibility falls on me. I have to get this team ready to go. We’re lucky it only counts as one.” The Falcons need to look inward and evaluate for the future; see what is expendable because this roster needs a complete makeover. The difference between this Falcons team and Mora’s Colts is this regime is just in its inception, while Mora was fired after the season. This isn’t even close to the final product, and we likely won’t know what the Falcons can be with Smith for some time.