The Atlanta Falcons stumbled badly out of the gate against the Colts, and we all feared the worst. We were justified in thinking so, because Atlanta just lost another game, and this one was even more dispiriting the last. The Falcons are a bad football team right now, and after weeks of trying to grapple with that reality, I'm ready to accept it.
Matt Ryan is getting beat up after this one, and justifiably so for the six yard pick six he threw and his weak deep throw to end the game. This was a complete team loss, though, from Tevin Coleman being thrust into action and fumbling to wide receivers and tight ends who couldn't get open and dropped passes. That's to say nothing of the defense, which was a bright spot most of the day before breaking down late and surrendering a couple of scoring drives. The blueprint was all too familiar, in other words, with the offense routinely letting down a game defense before that unit suffered late. It resulted in yet another loss, and now this reeling Falcons squad has exhausted our patience.
The tricky thing as a fan is decoupling your feelings about the team in here and now from the team's future. Rationally, I know just by looking at this football team that they've got the ingredients for success in 2016 and beyond, and giving the team up for dead is probably foolish. At this point in the 2015 season, though, they're frustratingly lousy and extremely unlikely to catch a still-undefeated Panthers team. You can be down on the season and optimistic about the years to come, but it's a tough balancing act when you're as justifiably angry and frustrated as we all are.
For the Falcons to find success at this point, they simply need to be better across the board. There's no magic bullet for a lackluster pass rush and poor passing game, to say nothing of the dumb mistakes, but this team is maddeningly close to winning games where they play horribly, which makes this sting even worse than it already did. It's up to the team, as always, to look in the mirror and find something better. I just don't expect them to right now.
On to the full recap.
- This was a mixed game for Matt Ryan, as so many have been. He threw three touchdowns and moved the offense exceptionally well at times, but he was also responsible for three picks and some lousy throws, whether or not all those picks were directly attributable to him.
The book on Ryan ranges from bad quarterback who has finally been unmasked to above average quarterback who isn't playing particularly well and has a lot of factors working against him, and I'll let you choose the narrative you like best. It's clear that whether it's scheme-caused or on Ryan's own arm, this is the worst season of his NFL career thus far, and one that's going to spark plenty of calls for him to be traded. There was poor line play, poor receiver play and circumstance working against him, but there's little point in denying that Ryan looks like a shell of the quarterback who has been so steady at the helm of this team since 2008. Unless that changes, the Falcons are probably doomed for 2015.
I like Aaron Freeman's take best, though, and the positive note comes from Ryan's track record before 2015 (and to a lesser extent 2014). He's right that Ryan is in a bad lull right now, but also that the Falcons aren't realistically going to look to replace him, and that doing so would require the kind of top draft pick the team won't have. They have every reason to figure out what's ailing him, and all we can do is hope they will before this gets even uglier, because I can't say him going anywhere.
- The defense came out swinging, with a Paul Worrilow interception and a fumble recovery on the first two Colts drives. Worrilow has his limitations, but every time the fanbase collectively writes him off, he delivers in a big way. The dude will be in Atlanta next year, one way or the other, and he and Schofield have been huge lately. Heck, even Kroy Biermann got in on the action with a sack.
- It took a while for the offense to get going, but that scoring drive in the first quarter was a thing of beauty. Nice Leonard Hankerson catch, clutch Roddy White reception on third down, nine yard Tevin Coleman run, and a beautiful touchdown catch and run to Patrick DiMarco.
- Speaking of DiMarco, what a game he had on Sunday. Two touchdown receptions on the day, some nice blocking up front for Tevin Coleman, and the lead story on NFL.com for a brief time. I never would have dreamed that he'd be this good in 2015, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. There is, however, reason to worry about a fullback being so integral to the offense.
- There was a lot of angry murmuring about Kyle Shanahan's flippant presser where he said he was focusing on getting Julio Jones the ball, but that's a defensible stance. In this one, Julio gashed the Colts for huge yardage, and though he couldn't come up with the big catch late in the game due to a variety of factors (hi, refs!), he is the biggest bright spot in this offense right now.
- Leonard Hankerson needs to work on his ability to, you know, catch the football, but he drew a couple of critical flags and wound up being the target on a crucial third quarter score. It's obvious that the offense is better when he's playing, even if he's not delivering.
- Kyle Shanahan seemed to be making a point he didn't need to make on the first offensive drive for the Falcons, with the team targeting Roddy White three straight times to open things up for a total of one reception for five yards. The subsequent Matt Bryant field goal was a miss, too, turning the Falcons' gift of a drive from a Paul Worrilow interception into a lot of nothing. Given that the Falcons lost this game by three points, that drive looks like a not-very-funny joke.
When you consider that Ryan has been downright bad at times in Shanahan's scheme, screwing around like this doesn't seem to be in anyone's best interest. The coordinator and the quarterback need to get this ironed out, and while Shanny has legitimate beef with Ryan's accuracy and arm strength this season, he's got to figure out how to play to that.
- The Falcons made a point of getting the ball to Roddy, but except for one truly terrific third down reception, he was again a non-factor, despite nine targets. Leonard Hankerson dropped passes, too, and Jacob Tamme did very little in this game. Ryan's got to play better, but it certainly wouldn't hurt if his receiving options were a little better outside of Julio.
- Tevin Coleman has his ups and downs as a runner, but he's had two truly terrible fumbles this season, and it's only thanks to Ricardo Allen that it wasn't more costly. If Coleman wants to unseat Freeman someday, that's the kind of play he can't have.
- The interception by Matt Ryan in the first quarter was not a particularly pretty play, but it was also not an interception, given that the ball very clearly hit the ground. The referees evidently disagreed, and we are continually reminded that referees are not great.
- Jalen Collins wasn't the only one scuffling, but he was responsible for some lousy coverage and penalties, something that doomed the Falcons throughout the day. I feared that Hasselbeck would dink and dunk his way to victory, and thanks to Collins, Akeem King, and a generally middling defensive performance after the first half, that's exactly what happened.
- I know I noted this above, but it bears repeating: In the cold light of day, this is just not a good football team. Those who have been telling us so are welcome to say "I told you so," but you can't blame anyone for wanting to hold on to hope given the tough defense and presence of playmakers on the offense.
Game MVP: Us. We watched this crap.
Theme Song: More weeping.
One Takeaway: There's something wrong with these Falcons, and it doesn't appear to be something a few tweaks can fix, much to our collective chagrin.
Final Word: Theseasonisintrouble.