If you slept in and missed the thrilling first half of the Falcons home game in London, you'd be forgiven if you thought the team was completely incompetent and incapable of winning. But if you were like me and saw the first half, the pain of what happened in the second half likely stung that much more. The fact that the team demonstrated the ability to score and hold back a formidable front-4 while also playing decent defensive football was entirely offset by the mind-boggling second half. With that said, here are the three key things I'm taking away from that dumpster-fire trapped in a sewer of a game.
1. The team has reached a new low
This one seems like a no-brainer, but I can't remember a more painful loss in recent Falcons history. This is easily one of the worst for the Falcons since Smith took over as head coach. The absolute contrast of the two halves spoke volumes about the mentality of the coaches and players, and if one was looking for the evidence that a change is needed this was the game that provided it.
If you believed that the root of the problems were in coaching, Smith gave you no reason to doubt that. If you believed that talent was the biggest issue, you saw evidence for that as well. No matter what your stance or who you blame, this game was evidence of that - hence, the new low.
2. Smitty-ball reappeared in full force
With two timeouts and right around 1 minute left in the first half, the Falcons had a 21-0 lead and all the momentum in the game. But football is a game of two halves and anyone who considers a 21 point lead a "safe" one in the NFL is a fool.
Getting the ball back with that time left, the Falcons appeared ready to try and add onto their already impressive score. Except for the fact that the Falcons ran the ball twice and effectively tossed up their hands heading into the half. Fans argued over whether they should have gone for it or not, but the mentality was clear: an extra score there wasn't necessary.
As the Falcons came out on offense in the second half, the first drive started with: a sack, a 1 yard run and an incomplete short pass. The next drive ended with an interception while subsequent drives in the fourth quarter seemed more intent on burning the clock than on driving down the field. And with minimal crowd noise, the team spent very little time in the hurry-up or no-huddle offense - you know, the offense Ryan thrives in. In fact, the offense in the second half looked disjointed and out of sorts.
In playing to "not lose," the Falcons found a new and inventive way to do just the opposite.
3. There were some actual bright spots amidst the ruin
Believe it or not, there were some bright spots that do need to be noticed amidst the ruins of this embarrassing game. On the offensive side of the ball, young guys Ryan Schraeder and James Stone had decent games. Stone in particular had a tough match-up facing Suh and Fairley, and he held up fairly well. Meanwhile, Schraeder looked much better than Carimi has in recent weeks. Additionally, Devonta Freeman notched his first NFL touchdown. These are young guys who could be important players in the coming years - as either rotational guys or as key backups.
Thank god there is a bye week to break up our memory of this game before we get to our next game in two weeks. Let's hope there's some sort of change that will spur some level of improvement in the upcoming games.