The Falcons had a slew of opportunities to get over .500 for the first time since 2017 on Sunday against the Chargers. And though it’s never one player or coach’s fault in defeat, it felt like Atlanta had so many missed chances to put this one away. There is plenty of blame to go around.
We can start simply with Arthur Smith and the coaching staff. On the offense’s first two possessions, the Falcons looked dominant. Atlanta went 75 yards on eight plays ending in a score on the opening drive. Then, following a Chargers three-and-out, the Falcons took the ball 72 yards on 14 plays for a Younghoe Koo field goal. The offense was rolling behind the run game. The Falcons once again forced a three-and-out on LA’s second offensive possession of the game. Smith then got cute on the following three possessions trying to pass the ball — three drives to end the first half for -10 yards. On the team’s final possession of the game, the Falcons once again had a three-and-out, trying to throw the ball instead of running it.
However, in between those possessions, there was plenty of other blame to go around. Drake London had an inexcusable fumble inside the red zone on a drive the Falcons were undoubtedly going to come away with at least a field goal. Thankfully, Richie Grant was able to secure an interception on the next play to get the offense back the ball. Then, Younghoe Koo missed a 50-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, which would come back to bite the Falcons in the ass.
There are also obvious candidates to blame, like Ta’Quon Graham, who recovered an Austin Ekeler fumble inside the red zone on a Chargers drive that would’ve ended with a game-winning field goal, then fumbled it right back to LA. Marcus Mariota also missed plenty of passes, including a wide-open Kyle Pitts for what would’ve been a walk-in touchdown. Pitts also isn’t free of blame, as the former No. 4 overall pick dropped an easy pass at a crucial point in the game.
There is plenty of blame to go around. Kaleb McGary even negated a Cordarrelle Patterson touchdown with a tripping penalty. Matt Hennessey had some rough moments at left guard in place of Elijah Wilkinson. Mariota missed several open receivers. Arthur Smith continued to go away from the run game, which was consistently working. The defense looked absolutely abysmal at times. The Chargers’ backups toasted Cornell Armstrong.
It was a heartbreaking way to lose, but there were still silver linings in the win — Patterson looked healthy, Tyler Allgeier looks like the real deal, and Rashaan Evans turned in the best performance of his Falcons career.
Photographer: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire