The moments after a loss are often the worse time to make any proper assessments of a game. So, having taken a deep breath after the Falcons loss to the Bills, I think there are some key things we can take away from the game. Not all of it is negative, even if some are insisting that the world is ending.
Don’t blame the defense
Again, this is not a top defense - and they really need to start turning their forced fumbles and near picks into recoveries and interceptions - but this unit is improving dramatically. One of the areas in particular is their red zone defense. Last year, this unit was regularly gauged for touchdowns once opposing offenses made it into the red zone. They were one of the worst in the league at allowing touchdown conversions.
This year, though, that has improved dramatically. While they’re not yet a shutdown defense, they are forcing teams to kick field goals far more often. In fact, the Bills had the ball late in the game at the 1 yard line and were unable to punch it in. This gave the offense an opportunity to win the game that would not have otherwise existed.
It’s little consolation in a game where horrible reffing calls had an impact, but this defense is improving with each game. If they can start recovering fumbles and finishing interceptions, they could quickly become a top-10 unit.
Too many injuries to overcome
Going into the game, we were already without Ryan Schraeder, Vic Beasley, Courtney Upshaw and Ricardo Allen. While the losses on defense ultimately didn’t hurt that much, it was the in game injuries to both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu that ultimately made this too much to overcome.
Don’t read this as an excuse, but it’s clear that the Falcons offense lost any rhythm once our top two wide receivers were out of the game. It also didn’t help that guys like Austin Hooper and Justin Hardy began uncharacteristically dropping passes throughout the game.
We can talk endlessly about play calls and missed throws and bad decisions, but I ultimately think the Falcons lost too many key pieces to be able to recover mid-game.
The WR depth isn’t as great as we thought
Don’t get me wrong, the Falcons still have a very good overall receiving corps. However, when asked to step up for the missing Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the guys further down the chart were mostly unable to do so. Justin Hardy - who normally has fantastic hands - was bobbling nearly every pass that came his way. Taylor Gabriel was a complete non-factor, though a blatant missed defensive holding at the end of the game is certainly not his fault. Nick Williams did a fine job of converting some key third and fourth down conversions, but was otherwise invisible. Injuries are a part of the game, and the Falcons need to do a better job of having their depth guys be prepared to take over when you do lose key guys.
What are your takeaways from the Bills game?