It was supposed to be a marquee matchup pitting two teams with um, "very distinctive history.” One that truly tested the Falcons in more than one aspect. Instead, it turned out to be another bad dream.
One that even had an eerie horror movie type setting.
After four quarters that were convincingly handled by the New England Patriots, the Atlanta Falcons found themselves on the losing end of a 23-7 defeat that seemed to be much more than just a 16-point loss. It was one that saw a lack of direction from the offensive coordinator (once again), the star wide receiver getting his red-zone target late when the outcome was pretty much determined, the one-two punch at running back totaling 18 carries combined (once again), the defense mustering up zero turnovers, and a thick, creepy fog that felt appropriate for the Falcons season at this point.
Coming into the contest, the Falcons were already facing a significant mental hurdle as the '28-3' signs were plastered around Gillette Stadium and Foxboro, Massachusetts. On top of that was the hanging two-game losing streak to the Bills and the Dolphins. It was a test that the Falcons were capable of passing, even in the hostile environment.
Currently, the Falcons find themselves at 3-3 on the season, and face more pressing questions than Julio Jones targets at this juncture.
The most notable scapegoat in this is offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The first-year play caller has had more bad days than good and the offensive outing against New England was the cherry on top for what has been an underwhelming start for the Falcons offense. Sitting ahead the Falcons on this past Sunday night was a Patriots defense that was dead last in total defense and passing yards. However, only seven points are the Falcons have to show for it.
The defense was not exactly gangbusters themselves as they failed to force a turnover for the fourth time this season. Yes, statistically, the defense has improved significantly this season. But finding ways to create takeaways has been a massive bugaboo for the unit and at times, it shows.
Coming into this contest, I deemed it as the biggest game of the season for the Falcons. If the outcome was any indication, the defending NFC champions may be heading down a steep slope that is the 2017 season.
One thing is for sure, the mental makeup for this team needs adjusting immediately. Too often this team has gotten lost in the bright lights. Too often has this team shied away when an early blow was thrown their way. Too often has this team played an important game without much of an edge. Of all the more disappointing losses for the Falcons in recent seasons (outside of the game played in February), this was arguably the most vivid sign of the team lacking that winning mental aspect.
The season is not lost however. More games remain and more opportunities lie ahead. Here's to hoping the Falcons learned a profound lesson from Sunday's night rendezvous with the Patriots.