It is fair to say that wins or no wins, the Atlanta Falcons are not a finished product. They are too prone to giving up big leads and too capable of lackluster days on offense to think otherwise.
That said, you can’t solve every problem this team has at once. What should the Falcons focus on during their upcoming bye week? The staff weighed in, and the fact that we all had different answers should tell you something about how much work lies ahead for the coaching staff and roster.
The Falcons need to tighten up their game plan
Another week, another massive blown lead. Thanks in part due to Drew Lock, the Falcons held on when the Broncos got aggressive and the Falcons got conservative. The Falcons started out dominant but struggled yet again when asked to manage the clock and hold onto the lead. There needs to be a better plan here. The exotic blitzes disappeared and the offense couldn’t chew up clock. We have seen what the Falcons can do with the right plan but the staff is still happy to abandon those successful components when faced with a multi-possession lead. It should be an easier fix, however, this has been a problem for years. With Dan Quinn out of the picture, it is time for Raheem Morris to put in better strategy and planning. After all, the Falcons don’t get to play the Broncos every week. - Matt Chambers
Getting healthy and maintaining momentum
A much needed bye for the Falcons is upon them. First and foremost, the team needs some healing physically with injuries to notable players such as Calvin Ridley and Dante Fowler Jr. Not to mention, the team probably needs to find some mental rest after what has been a very roller coaster of the first nine weeks of season. Winners of three of the last four, the Falcons have a bit of momentum thanks to interim head coach Raheem Morris and some tweaks on the defensive side of the ball. Now I’m not saying that this momentum and better play should spark thoughts of the playoffs. But what has been a troubling season can somehow still end on a decent note. - Eric Robinson
Sorting out the ground game
There are still so many things to work on that you could pick almost anything and find something worthwhile. The Falcons need to get better on third downs, improve their pass rush, improve their coverage, learn how to hold on to late game leads, and so forth. But I would submit that the ground game deserves a special shout out.
Atlanta has been hilariously unproductive on the ground in recent weeks, especially with Gurley running, for reasons that range from very predictable early down runs to less-than-stellar blocking to a lack of decisiveness and explosiveness from Gurley himself. With Dirk Koetter seemingly locked in to rushing the ball 20-plus times per game even if there’s very little to show for it, getting an effective ground game that can do more on fewer carries would make a big difference for an offense that too often stalls out. I hope they can fix it. - Dave Choate
Building on the defensive improvements
The Falcons have gone from an absolute train wreck to a respectable unit on defense, since Raheem Morris took over as interim head coach following Dan Quinn’s departure. Morris was still the defensive coordinator presiding over the defense while Quinn was here, so he isn’t blameless for the early struggles, but the unit certainly looks more willing to take a few chances since the coaching change was made, and it’s paid dividends.
We don’t know exactly how good the defense is, as their performances in Week 6 and beyond have come against subpar offensive teams, but we’ll find out immediately after the bye with a trip to New Orleans. Morris will have an extra week of preparation to get this defense to play up to its competition in a grueling second half of the season. - Adnan Ikic
See what we have in the young players
While I’m happy that the Falcons have started to play better as of late, especially on defense, this is still almost certainly a lost season. Atlanta would need to win 6 of their last 7 games to finish with a winning record, although 9-7 would probably also be enough to get the 7th seed in the newly-expanded playoffs. Maybe if the team sweeps the Saints and wins against Las Vegas over the next 3 games we can start the playoff hype train, but until then we should try to keep things in perspective.
At the same time, the Falcons also need to start evaluating some of the young players on their roster. Matt Hennessy is the heir apparent for Alex Mack, and Atlanta needs to know if he can hold down the position going forward. Jaylinn Hawkins could be needed as a starter in 2021 if Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee walk in free agency. The Falcons have to start getting reps to their younger players, or we’ll be going into next season with a ton of personnel question marks. -Kevin Knight