The second Atlanta Falcons game all-time in Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a losing one. Not just any defeat however. It was one that was more blazing inferno where everything caught fire than a small blaze that was easily extinguished.
Where do I start? The star receiver was hurt early and missed majority of the game. The team's #2 receiver was injured right before halftime and missed the rest of the game. The starting right tackle was already ruled out of the game with a concussion, not to mention the team's star pass rusher was still sidelined due to a hamstring injury suffered two weeks ago. Oh, the starting free safety was bit by the injury bug also last week and sat this one out as well.
All those key injuries mounded together made matters quite difficult for the talented Falcons. It did not help that the play calling left a little to be desired. Or that costly turnovers appeared. To make matters even more interesting, the Buffalo Bills just so happen to have a kicker that could nail a field goal from the parking lot with room to spare.
So yes, a 23-17 loss to the Bills in week four was one that the team will have to put behind them in a hurry. I say that based on the fact that it was clearly a game where the Falcons were FAR from their true selves.
Coming into the season, many eyed the early season bye week for the Falcons as one that was unwanted. An early bye week means the team will have 12 straight weeks of action prior to the playoffs. Depending on your preferred viewpoint, that can either mean a team catches a hot streak into the playoffs and will be one team no one wants to encounter. Or it could mean that a team will...well, maybe I should not mention those bad vibes.
What I will mention is that the Falcons learned several lessons in this particular contest. One lesson for sure is that teams such as the Bills, who are not greatly spectacular at any aspect, are still skilled and capable enough to put together four quarters of effective football to walk out with a win such as this.
It also presented a lesson that in situations where primary options in the passing game are injured or ineffective, the team should be armed schematically to adjust accordingly. Do not misinterpret what I am saying. It is difficult to "prepare" for losing receivers such as Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu to injuries. But for a team that is fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, it appeared that without those two, hope was, for the most part, lost.
Picking positives from a game such as this is complex, but can be done. It's hard to ignore that the Falcons defense held Buffalo to 281 total yards and 3.3 yards per carry and not turn the focus on an offense that committed three turnovers, one in particular that ultimately turned out to the be the deciding score. It is strenuous to overlook a Falcons rushing attack that averaged 5.1 yards per carry while not paying attention to questionable offensive play calling on the team's last drive of the game.
So what can you pull from this irritating loss to the Bills? Maybe we all learned that it takes a list of problems for the Falcons to have a poor game such as this. That maybe, an early bye week is something that the young Falcons can use to ascend further, even in the aftermath of a loss. That maybe, to win in the NFL, talent alone will never accomplish the mission.