Sunday’s loss to the Colts was ... unpleasant. From Matt Ryan’s sixth interception of the year to Keanu Neal’s season-ending achilles tear, there were plenty of lowlights. The path ahead is less than clear. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and resilience to bounce back from this 1-2 start.
So what did we learn from the loss?
1. This is not a disciplined football team
The Falcons have somehow racked up a league-leading 35 penalties (264 penalty yards) in only 3 games. They committed 16 penalties yesterday. I’m not even mad; that’s amazing. That takes dedication to undisciplined football.
Going forward, this has to be a point of emphasis from the coaching staff, but I’m sure they know that already. It appears the Falcons may have a hard time winning football games anyway this season. They might as well not shoot themselves in the foot.
2. The offense can score points ... eventually
Notwithstanding a slow start, the Falcons came out firing in the second half. Matt Ryan went 12 for 12 in the third quarter and nearly overcame a 20-3 halftime deficit. Austin Hooper scored twice. Julio Jones surpassed 100 receiving yards for the second straight week. Devonta Freeman even got in on the action, averaging 5.5 yards/carry. But it was all too little, too late for the Falcons. They couldn’t dig themselves out of that sizable hole. This begs a legitimate question or two: why can’t the offense fire on all cylinders for an entire game? Why do they have to put themselves behind the eight ball?
3. Jamon Brown isn’t a finished product ... yet
James Carpenter and Brown had an epic camp battle that went down to the wire. Carpenter edged out Brown but reading between the lines, Brown’s contract told a story. The team handed him a three-year, $18.75 million contract when free agency kicked off. Their investment signaled long-term commitment to Brown, who, at 26 years old, hasn’t sniffed his ceiling. But Brown has to play smarter football. He’s been flagged at least once over his last six games, including twice on Sunday. Brown’s potential is undeniable, but he has to stop getting penalized so frequently.
4. The Dan Quinn era may come to an end sooner rather than later
Quinn’s tenure as head coach has been fun. We’ve had ups, we’ve had downs. The Falcons won an NFC Championship before ... never mind. If Arthur Blank does fire Quinn in the middle of the season, it’s going to hurt. We’ll get all nostalgic, wondering what could have been. We’ll look ahead to better times. But in the interim, we’ll have to endure months and months of transitional nonsense, which won’t be fun. So for Quinn’s sake, and for our sake, let’s hope his seat cools down a bit in the weeks ahead.
5. Matt Ryan is still a resilient quarterback
I’m an eternal optimist, particularly when it comes to Ryan. But he’s made some foolish decisions over the first three games of the season, and some of the criticism he’s enduring is completely fair. That said, the way he played during the third quarter on Sunday spoke volumes. Ryan looked like the franchise quarterback he is over those 15 minutes. Ryan’s resilience, his ability to elevate the offense, is always there, lurking under the surface. That’s equal parts reassuring and maddening when your team is 1-2, but it’s a silver lining nonetheless.
The Falcons have a lot of soul searching to do right now. And at this rate, they might be searching for a while. So do yourself a favor: sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Because no matter how much we curse at the television, we can’t will this team to be better. That’s their responsibility.