Our typical recap will hit all the notes, as you’d expect, but after watching this game with spotty Internet and stewing quietly to myself about all the many mistakes Atlanta made, I was moved to write about the specific issues that cost Atlanta in a close game. It’s a mix of questionable-to-weird coaching decisions and errors of execution, all of them familiar.
- Calvin Ridley continues to have legitimate problems with concentration that result in costly drops. It was an issue that plagued him in college, and while the Alabama product is very obviously a gifted receiver who has been a net asset to the offense, his awful drop in this game killed the Falcons because it led to an interception and subsequent Dallas score that wound up proving to be decisive.
- If you like missed open field tackles, then you loved Damontae Kazee’s. He’s been one of the team’s best defenders this year by a wide margin, but he and too many of his fellow Falcons simply haven’t been able to make tackles when they need to. It’s maddening when the margin of error is so thin for this team to watch the little things so consistently go wrong.
- If the Falcons didn’t feel confident that it was worth giving Matt Bryant a shot at a 54 yarder early in the game, okay. I recognize that he hadn’t kicked in weeks, and that they wouldn’t have necessarily been confident about Giorgio Tavecchio in that same situation. At the same time, they let him take a crack at a 53 yarder in the third quarter, which makes the earlier reluctance for the 54 yarder seem a bit eyebrow-raising.
- The last Cowboys drive was a disaster, really. The Falcons calling a timeout allowed Dallas to pick up an extra couple of yards that made the game-winning field goal attempt a little easier, and the decision to send three against Dak Prescott on third down was rightly and roundly criticized given that Dak is notably wilt-y against blitzes. The Falcons didn’t lose purely because of that—they could have done a dozen things to put themselves in a better position before that final drive—it was a reminder that this coaching staff does inexplicable things at inexplicable times more frequently than any of us would like.
Yes, most NFL teams mismanage game situations on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean the Falcons shouldn’t want and expect more from their own staff. They absolutely should expect more, and they should expect more from players who make the same mistakes over and over again. None of these issues are going to be fixed overnight—you’re not going to see me advocating benching anybody at the moment, nor making changes to the staff—but it needs to be one of the primary focuses of the offseason.
The disagreement over whether Dan Quinn is a good coach or not is only going to grow more vociferous in this fanbase, but I have been increasingly willing to grant that Quinn is not good at in-game decision making, and this week really is the cherry on that particular Sunday sundae. DQ’s job security is not in any way in doubt at this point, but the team’s ability to play championship-caliber football in 2019 should be until they fix the many small things that have doomed this in a season that already featured plenty of major problems.