The Atlanta Falcons rolled into Houston for a must-win match-up. and left with their season virtually in tatters. It was a display of complete ineptitude top-to-bottom, and a game you can earmark when changes are eventually made in the Falcons franchise.
If I listed all of the head-scratching moments from this one it would rival War and Peace, so in the interest of sanity and brevity I keyed in on the ones that loomed largest. Here’s Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers from the abomination against the Texans.
The first defensive sequence
This is the only positive mention the defense will receive in this piece, because it was a veritable tire fire for the entire game. The opening sequence certainly didn’t portend that the Falcons defense was primed to surrender 53 points to the Texans, but we’ll save that for later.
Grady Jarrett rudely greeted Houston running back Carlos Hyde for a loss and forced fumble, and although Atlanta did not recover the football, it left Houston with a 3rd-and-24 in its own territory and a subsequent three-and-out.
It was a great start from the defense, but it’s also where all the fun stopped for the remainder of the game.
The offense starts quick
The Falcons have often found themselves in early holes in games, and getting off to a quick start was one of the focal points heading into this one. Although the first offensive possession resulted in a three-and-out, the Falcons would get on the scoreboard first in their second drive.
Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones on a 35-yard pass, and would find Mohamed Sanu in the end zone two plays later for six.
Playing from behind has been a problem all season long, so it was good to see the offense get ahead early on the road.
Calvin Ridley’s touchdown grab
Calvin Ridley has been inexplicably missing in action for the majority of the year, and his fourth quarter touchdown reception makes his absence on the offense even more frustrating. Ridley displayed exactly why he’s such a nightmare for defenses, showing his ability to get open and body control to secure the pass for the touchdown.
An incredible catch from the second-year wide receiver.
Matt Wile’s shanks
The Falcons placed punter Matt Bosher on injured reserve last week, so they brought back Matt Wile to handle punts and kickoff duties. He proceeded to boot one out of bounds in the second quarter, giving Houston excellent field position that they would turn into the first of Will Fuller’s three touchdowns.
He would shank another one later that should have resulted in Houston starting on its own 7-yard-line, but due to a curious decision by the referees was ruled out of bounds.
The Falcons have enough issues already where they shouldn’t have to worry about the ability of their kicker to properly put the ball in play, but it seems they can’t even rely on that, either.
The Will Fuller Show
Texans wide receiver Will Fuller entered this contest with 183 yards receiving and zero touchdowns on the season. The Falcons would allow him to eclipse his season-long receiving total by 34 — his final line reading an embarrassing 14 receptions for 217 yards and a touchdown.
The defensive meltdown is a complete indictment of Dan Quinn’s soft zone scheme. Miscommunication in the secondary and an abundance of attention focused on DeAndre Hopkins meant that Will Fuller was consistently wide open, and he capitalized on it and picked apart Atlanta’s defense.
Should Dan Quinn be relieved of his duties, mark Will Fuller’s performance as one of the reasons for dismissal.
Deshaun Watson may have been the death knell for the Atlanta Falcons’ season. He took complete advantage of the looks the Falcons gave him, throwing for 426 yards and five touchdowns. He finished the game with a perfect QBR of 158.3, making the Falcons look thoroughly foolish the entire time.
Watson is one of the NFL’s brightest young stars — a dynamic quarterback who can make plays with his arm or his legs. But allowing him to post that kind of game against your defense is absolutely unacceptable.