Your 2019 Atlanta Falcons are officially back. The tide appeared to turn when they dominated the Saints and the Panthers on the road, but last week’s loss to the Bucs coupled with Thanksgiving’s loss to the Saints fully crystallized this year’s incarnation of the Atlanta Falcons: They’re just bad.
We were teased for two games, and then smacked back to reality by the true identity of this team.
It was difficult to like anything from Thursday’s loss to the Saints, but I tried.
Recovering two consecutive onside kicks
It’s rare enough to corral one onside kick in a football game, yet the Falcons managed to do it twice — on back-to-back drives. In the fourth quarter with Atlanta trailing by 11 and looking to mount a miracle comeback, kicker Younghoe Koo teed up the ball for the onside kick attempt.
The first was recovered by Foyesade Oluokun, but an offside penalty on Russell Gage rendered it null and would force the Falcons to re-try it.
This time Oluokun would recover the football without any flags on the field. It would lead to a field goal to bring the Falcons within eight points.
Then they did it again on the ensuing kickoff, this time recovered by Kemal Ishmael. Yes, they would eventually turn the ball over on downs, but this was absolutely wild. Finding high points in this season are akin to pulling teeth, so seeing this special teams execution with a game on the line is definitely worthy of a hat tip of the highest order.
Taysom Hill blocked a punt. That was not a tryptophan-aided fever dream. It happened in the first quarter, and it immediately led to the Saints’ first points on the board, a short Drew Brees pass to ... Taysom Hill.
There are a number of players on the Saints that you just cannot let beat you. Names like Michael Thomas, Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara — you gameplan for these guys. The Falcons did a fairly decent job of limiting that trio, and then allowed a back-up quarterback to wreck their Thanksgiving.
File under: Falcony
Offensive line play
Matt Ryan was sacked nine times on Thursday night. Nine. That registers as the second-highest total in Atlanta Falcons history. Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary had abysmal games, allowing two sacks apiece. The entire line has been an abject disaster for the whole year, and with Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn banking on an O-line rebuild to bolster the offense — and that clearly not coming to fruition — it’s likely going to lead to the ouster of both at season’s end.
Matt Ryan’s three straight turnovers
Matt Ryan, lacking protection for the entirety of this contest, had one of the worst games of his career. It was clear from the start that he was not comfortable at all in the pocket (and who can blame him?), and this led to a trio of hair-raising decisions leading to three straight turnovers.
In the final minutes of the third quarter, Ryan attempted a short pass to Devonta Freeman and threw it right to Saints defensive lineman Shy Tuttle. Tuttle would then run it back 39 yards and treat Matt Ryan to a stiff-arm along the way.
The subsequent Falcons possession saw Matt Ryan throw directly into coverage on a pass intended for Russell Gage, leading to yet another interception.
To cap off this comedy of errors, Ryan would then scramble on the next drive and cough the ball up. Mercy.