We have officially reached rock bottom.
I said it on Twitter last week during the Titans game: "This is worst case scenario." No, friends, yesterday was worst case scenario. It was another game where we literally handed the game to the opposition, yet somehow nearly managed to take it right back in spite of not getting ANY turnovers on the other end. This team is flawed - very flawed, even - but I do believe their record is indicative of how good the team actually is. We saw it on display yesterday: if we don't commit turnovers, we win easily. People have gotten caught up in the Panthers (slightly surprising) success. If we were in first place in the division, I think people wouldn't be as upset. Yes, this team has problems, but we're only beating ourselves, which is plenty fixable. Whether or not we fix those problems is going to determine just how far we go.
This is a growing team making way too many mistakes
Install a new scheme, bring in new players and you're bound to have some hiccups. These Falcons are showing us some of that, but they're also going above and beyond in terms of fumbling, bumbling, and otherwise messing up in ways that cost them points. Ultimately, it cost them the game against the Buccaneers, and it will cost them more winnable games very soon if they can't get it figured out. It's encouraging to know this team is being limited by something as manageable as dumb mistakes, but it's discouraging that they can't seem to stop making them.
In a game full of ugly football and a disappointing loss, there are bright spots
As much as I want to harp on about turnovers and penalties, I feel like there are some actual bright spots that we can see from this team (yes, even within a loss). For starters, Justin Hardy got considerable snaps and Ryan had no problem targeting him repeatedly and getting good results. For the rookie receiver, his first game was encouraging. Additionally, fellow rookie Jalen Collins continues to get meaningful snaps and is doing well with them. With a bye week coming after next Sunday's game in San Francisco, the team is poised to begin really righting the ship to close out the season strong. Having rookies step up coming out of that bye could be the difference between a strong finish and a meandering one.
I am sad.
I could sit here and tell you that you should be thankful for the fact that this team is 6-2. I could sit here and tell you that you shouldn't worry, that we're sitting pretty with our destiny in the palm of our hands. The fact of the matter is, with the way this team is playing at the moment, they'll be lucky to finish with a winning record. These mistakes will happen with new faces around the organization, and I have confidence that these guys will turn it around soon, but this type of play will not get you anywhere. Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan need to strike fundamental ball security into the heads of this offense, and fast.
I have no idea what this team is doing anymore.
The Falcons have had such fluky turnovers, drops, and penalties, that for weeks I have expected them to fix their issues and get up to full speed. Somehow they keep finding new ways to beat themselves. The frustrating thing is the offense looks really good when they are not trying to give the game away. While I have been critical of Mike Smith, and his teams often looked unwilling to compete, they never looked this sloppy. After eight games under Dan Quinn, the complete opposite looks true. Atlanta is not far from being 2-6 or 8-0. This team can either turn it around, or go down in a fiery mess.
Leonard Hankerson has become undervalued
Through writing my weekly preview features, it has become a weekly tradition to write about how Matt Ryan should be able to exploit a below average secondary. This tradition started against Washington and probably has ended with Tampa Bay. Defenses are constantly providing safety help to keep Julio Jones from beating them deep. Roddy White's explosiveness has completely diminished. Justin Hardy and Nick Williams seem to be possession wide receivers at best.
The last two weeks has made it clear that one of the more criticized players on the roster is vastly underappreciated. Hankerson has shown that he can stretch the field and provide Jones with some support. It's no coincidence that Ryan's most efficient performances (New York, Dallas) coincides with Hankerson being productive during both games. With Devin Hester not coming back until early December, Hankerson needs to get healthy immediately to help save Atlanta from being a complete dink-and-dunk offense.