The Falcons, who were 6-10 in 2014 and 4-12 in 2013, finished the season with an improved record of 8-8. However, it's little solace for fans who saw the team get off to a 5-0 start, only to finish 3-8 in their next 11 games. The final game of the season - against hated rival the New Orleans Saints - was the embodiment of the entire 2015 season as a whole. The takeaways below can also be considered takeaways for the entire season. They're fixable issues, but it will take a concerted effort this off-season to make sure that happens.
Lack of discipline plagued this team
In stark contrast to the teams from 2008-2012, the Falcons have been notoriously undisciplined in 2015 and it showed yet again versus the Saints. No play may have been more disastrous than the Andy Levitre unnecessary roughness penalty that took the Falcons out of field goal range. It was a stupid penalty, and without it, there's a good chance the Falcons punch in the go-ahead field goal. Plays like these - including a plethora of offensive line penalties - happened throughout the 2015 season and often killed drives or even caused turnovers. If this team is going to improve in 2016, it has to play more disciplined across the board.
Offensive failures abound
Most people will focus on the game-killing Matt Ryan interception, as it seemed like he has had one almost every game. While that was definitely a back-breaking play, the reality is the entire offense contributed to the poor performance yet again. Devonta's fumble in the red zone took points off the board. The Levitre penalty took the team out of field goal range. Drops by Roddy and Julio also killed drives. Ryan missed some deep passes early that could have been scores. Across the board, the team found ways to kill drives and take points off the board. While some may want to crucify Ryan alone, the reality is everyone contributed to the offensive failures on Sunday.
Linebacker play killed this defense
Stop me if you've heard this before: the Falcons were killed by running backs and tight ends on Sunday. It's a recurring theme and one that is only going to be fixed by an infusion of talent into the middle of the defense. While Paul Worrilow's story is an admirable one, the reality is he's not a three down linebacker. Justin Durant struggled with coverage in the second half of the season, and his tendency to take bad angles only seemed to get worse. Brooks Reed was never brought in to be a "coverage" linebacker and Nate Stupar showed glimpses here and there, but not enough to count on as a permanent starter. If there was ever any doubt, the Saints game cemented the fact that this defense is woeful at the linebacker position. This off-season must address this area or this defense will continue to stall out despite the admirable play in our secondary.
What are your takeaways from the game against the Saints?