Normally, I'd sit here and try to give you a balanced spin on what happened the day prior. If it was a win, we'd aim to temper enthusiasm with a dose of "come back to earth." If it was a loss, it'd be geared towards "don't worry." Well, don't look now, because I can no longer tell you not to worry. What we saw last night, despite the final score and the stat lines, was very poor football.
However, before we all go off and predict a 1-16 reason, the firing of everyone in the front office and drafting Clowney with our high-seat 1st rounder - let's remember that it is still very early in the season. That's not to say that this team doesn't have some serious issues, because it is clear that they do. But 1-3 does not eliminate you from the playoffs, especially in the NFC this year. What it does do is make the rest of the road incredibly difficult and it leaves little to no room for error.
The sad thing is, I'm not sure what we've seen so far indicates a team that can play error free football going forward.
I still contend that the Falcons have an amazingly talented roster. Despite the constant pressure, Ryan was still able to throw for over 400 yards. Other QBs around the league with OLine problems are having a much harder time (just check out Eli Mannings stats for comparison). Julio is also having a great year and our running backs - when given the opportunity - have been better than last year. But this talent is what makes this 1-3 start all the more confusing.
The Falcons are uncharacteristically beating themselves. Whether it's missed interceptions, dropped passes, inexplicable fumbles or sailed passes, everyone on the team is contributing in one way or another. They are playing sloppy football, and the record reflects it.
At 1-3, the Falcons are in a terrible position, but they have frustratingly been in every single game. This is a team that could easily be 4-0 were it not for the mental mistakes - and that is what is haunting about these first four games. If it were just one game, it would be easy to write off. But the fact is that every game has been plagued by these mental errors. Even the win against the Rams.
The worst part is that these mental errors are coming mostly from our veterans. Guys like DeCoud, Moore, Jackson, Julio and Ryan have all had big mental errors at the worst possible times. It's a sad statement that our rookies - in some cases un-drafted ones - have out-played some of our veterans on the roster.
Additionally, just as some struggling players begin playing well, others - who have been otherwise solid - begin struggling. For instance, our interior offensive line has played well this year while our tackles have struggled. Last night? Trueblood and Holmes do a better job (not good, but better), but then guys like Reynolds and Konz begin whiffing on blocks. It is maddening, because it suggests that our players are all capable, but they just can't seem to get it done at the same time - and for four full quarters.
All of that said, it would not be fair to slam the Falcons without noting that this team has been slammed by injuries. The loss of two of our best defenders - Biermann and Weatherspoon - has only been piled upon by the injuries to Jackson, Samuel and Baker on the offensive side. That's not even mentioning the loss of Mike Johnson in the preseason, and the nagging injuries to Roddy, Dent and others. While I love the "next man up" mentality, at some point the injuries take their toll. And they've certainly been a factor this year.
So, at 1-3, is it time to write off this season? No way. As I mentioned earlier, this is a team with tremendous talent, and they are capable of beating any team in the league, even if it doesn't feel that way right now. But until the red zone issues are corrected, and the mental mistakes are either reduced or eliminated, this season is not going to get better.
The 2013 Falcons are certainly very capable of beating any team in the league.