We’re now seven weeks into the season and there appears to be a pattern that has not only developed but has solidified into an identity for the Atlanta Falcons. The week seven showdown between the Falcons and the Detroit Lions ended in a 23-22 loss for Atlanta in a way that can only be scripted by a movie director.
Now, the team is at 1-6 on the season and disappointment has reach a height taller than Mercedes-Benz Stadium itself. On to the key takeaways.
To take a knee or not take a knee
As the Falcons marched deep into Lions territory late in the fourth quarter, it had the makeup of a Falcons victory that was hard fought. However, a controversial moment occurred as running back Todd Gurley scored on a touchdown run but appeared as if he did not have intentions to do so. Nonetheless, the score by Gurley and a two-point conversion gave the Falcons a 22-16 lead with a shade over a minute remaining in the game.
As it turns out, it was determined that the plan in place was for the Falcons to melt the clock with the Lions having no timeouts. To me, this point is irrelevant for the most part. Firstly, it’s irrelevant because the offense has battled a reputation of not making late game statements with scores and door-slaming drives. So I can understand the will to want to score again. Secondily, it is irrelevant to me because the upcoming second takeaway has been much more of a bigger issue...
The defense unable to make the necessary stops
Just like Dallas in week two, Chicago in week three, vs. Cincinnati in 2018, and let’s not even mention Super Bowl 51, when the stage was set for the Falcons defense to make the necessary stops to clinch a potential win, they came up short. The game of football is a team sport and that is not up for debate. But what has been a very alarming issue for the Falcons over the last several seasons is the offense handing the defense a lead with hopes of the defense closing things out and the opposite occurring instead.
Never mind the offense taking a knee late against Detroit to keep their defense off the field. The defense is paid to keep the other team from scoring, especially in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Paid to make whatever play possible to preserve the victory. If a defense can’t be relied on late in games, when can you rely on them?
Key offensive players showing toughness
Not all can be gloom and doom from this past Sunday. A well earned tip of the cap is given to receiver Russell Gage and center Alex Mack. Both suffered very ugly leg injuries in the first quarter on Sunday, only to return to the field and aid the team the best way they could.
Gage in particular missed just about all of the first half but returned after halftime and posted six receptions, which included two massive catches on the team’s final drive to get the team into the red zone. Seeing both Mack and Gage back on the field after suffering what may have looked like serious injuries that can keep them out for a while showed a warrior mentality that the game of football requires most times.
Sloppiness from the referees
I am not one to harp on referees as often as most but on several instances on Sunday, the refereeing during the contest was downright poor. It started when rookie A.J. Terrell was flagged for roughing the passer in the first quarter despite Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford escaping the pocket while in scrambling mode as well as receiving a textbook hit from Terrell echoed around the entire stadium.
That led to an extension of the drive for the Lions and eventually resulted in a touchdown scored. A number of other times showed the refereeing crew to have unnecessary play stoppage and even one occasion where the lead referee almost gave the wrong signal and almost called roughing the passer on a play where Stafford was not even harmed. Did their ineptness cost the Falcons the game? I will not go that far, but there were times where the entire crew really dragged down a game that was close from start to finish.