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The Falcons Were A Little Bit Bad, A Little Bit Unlucky Versus Bears

We all know the Falcons were bad Sunday against the Bears. Were they also extraordinarily unlucky?

That’s the argument made by Bill Barnwell at Grantland, who predicted the Falcons were due for a regression in an article a week before the season began. He looked downright prophetic by the end of the game Sunday, but Barnwell’s not a braggart or the kind of analyst who cultivates a personal brand.

He’s a former Football Outside, a stat guy with a pedigree, and he immediately began to look at the numbers. Not being a Falcons fan probably helped him do that. What he found, though, was compelling enough that I wanted to share it with you.

In essence, the Falcons weren’t just dismal. They also had dismal luck. Barnwell notes that there were five fumbles in the game, and the Bears recovered all five of them. One missed Sean Weatherspoon tackle led to a Matt Forte touchdown run. Thomas DeCoud let two interceptions slip through his fingers. Falcons defenders, including Dunta Robinson, slipped on more than one play. The team was also missing Todd McClure and Corey Peters, and later lost Ovie Mughelli and Jonathan Babineaux.

Dave,” you say, “aren’t you and Bill Barnwell making excuses?” Yes and no. It’s true that some of these issues were caused by execution, something the Falcons have to work on. No one’s going to argue that Thomas DeCoud shouldn’t have snagged those picks, especially the second one.

The larger point here is that even terrible teams will not suffer through this many mistakes and bad bounces most weeks. As Barnwell notes, fumble recoveries tend to fluctuate greatly from year-to-year, due to the fact that there is a little bit of luck involved with eight giant dudes falling on a slippery oblong ball and trying to come up with it. Recovering all five fumbles in a game is fairly rare.

So yes, I am saying luck was a factor. No, I’m not saying the Falcons don’t have a ton of work to do, and I’m not saying the Bears didn’t kick the guano out of Atlanta, either. But it’s worth noting that this might, at minimum, have been something less of a blowout loss if a fumble had bounced the Falcons’ way or DeCoud had gotten his mitts on an interception.

I expect you’ll see a better showing from the Falcons against the Eagles. That will be in part because the coaching staff and players have too much pride to be caught with their pants down two weeks in a row. It will also be because their luck can’t help but be better.

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