After another (another...another) historic collapse, one wonders how long this miserable Atlanta Falcons season can go on like this.
The mathematical answer is that it could go on for 13 more games, the long crawl to a merciful December close. The ethereal answer is probably not for long, unless you channel the same energy the sadistic dental patient in Little Shop of Horrors musters on his annual visit to Dr. Orin Scrivello. If blown leads are your fancy, come on down and get your fill.
This has been the most demoralizing stretch in Falcons history since the Super Bowl collapse; there is just no other way to say it. They are bad.
This team has a lot of what the 2019 team didn’t at first, but is somehow finding worse ways to lose games. The defense is better and then much worse in the most impossible moments. The offense is outstanding until it just decides to stop and sputter. The coaching is so wildly inconsistent that you’d think plays are being called by a cat walking all over a computer keyboard. The team’s mental fortitude, and leads, fold like single ply toilet paper trying to contain the voracious blast of a fire hydrant.
This team stinks, and it’s even worse when you know, with better coaching, they just wouldn’t be this pitiful. With this roster, a competent coaching staff could go 9-7/10-6. With a great coaching staff, it could go even further. Matt Ryan isn’t a spring chicken anymore, but he can still win a lot of games with what he can do. His arm strength isn’t at all diminished right now, and he’s a tough cookie and great leader.
The fact that the Falcons aren’t doing anything of note in Matty Ice’s last stretch of his prime before the twilight years begin is inexcusable and unforgivable. Ditto Julio Jones, who with Calvin Ridley could give the NFL the best receiving tandem in ages if this offense wasn’t so dumbfoundingly inconsistent and vanilla.
Sunday’s game was a farce when it didn’t have to be. The team clearly was better than the Chicago Bears until they clearly weren’t. A good football team wins that game by 20-25 points; the starting quarterback literally got benched. But not Atlanta! They seemingly lost control the second Nick Foles came in; the coverage disappeared, the offensive line started to let up pressure and the run game and pass rush just couldn’t do enough to be effective. There are good players on that Falcons defense, but it doesn’t mean a darn thing if the team can’t play as a unit.
The offense was really inspiring when down its two top targets...until Dirk Koetter turtled and sputtered aggression at bizarre moments. His offenses are stale and predictable; he occasionally gets hot, but cools the second a hint of pressure comes in and disrupts things. He doesn’t let the Falcons play with any agency when things get tight, and is rather unwieldy when he does. You can’t win a Super Bowl with him calling the plays. Heck, this year, they can’t win a single game.
Dan Quinn has come under a firestorm of criticism in the last week after the Cowboys fiasco, and he has poured gasoline over himself with this performance. A convincing win against a 2-0 Bears team (however shaky that was for CHI) might’ve saved him some time. If not for the players continuing to go to bat for him, will Arthur Blank have any patience at all this time? He blew another lead on Blank’s literal birthday; it’s adding even more insult to even more injury at this point.
Blank is going to start taking heat for bringing this coaching staff back, and he knows deep down changes will come sooner or later. Quinn clearly needs a fresh start; he’s a good coach and motivator that has endured some deep football trauma on the job. A team like Jacksonville or the New York Jets could use a DQ-esque force to come in with the young talent it has and build a culture in the locker room. Perhaps he could get a great defensive coordinator job elsewhere. I’m sure he’ll find success; he’s a wonderful person and historically a smart coach.
But the road leads to a cleaning of the house for Atlanta in 2021. Unless the team waltzes into Green Bay next week and replicates the 2016 NFC title game, they won’t beat the Packers and will fall 0-4 on national television. The October slate is filled with middling teams, but why would you be confident about it? The Falcons are also a middling team, and some of the best teams they play await in the back half of 2020. Quinn’s job status is going to solely depend on how many wins or losses the team strings together over the next couple of weeks. It might not be this week, but it could be next week, or the week after that. It’s just hard to know exactly how Blank will play this or when he’ll finally have had enough.
That’s going to be the storyline to watch, but it’s clearing the way for another lost fall. This is not a playoff team. This is not even a team that is guaranteed a 7-9 season. This is a fatally flawed outfit who wilts at the sign of pressure and can’t hold a lead to beat an overrated Bears team at home. Injuries aren’t an excuse anymore; good teams figure it out. This is not a good team right now, and the back half of 2019 looks more and more like a fluke (and two games against Kyle Allen) as time moves on.
This really sucks. We all wish this were going better, and the only thing we can all hope is that a new, bright coaching staff will come in for 2021 and maximize and add to the talent on this roster. We deserve a secondary that won’t crumble under pressure, and a front seven with depth that plays consistently when it matters. We deserve an offense that doesn’t look like it’s falling apart when it’s time to play smart football. We need coaching that understands the nuances of the game and, for the life of Freddie Falcon, can prove that any lead built is a lead earned and not a lead automatically lost.
We need a team that’s mentally tough, smartly coached and deserving of our time on Sunday afternoon. That’s not these Atlanta Falcons, and all you’ve got right now is the hope that the young talent on the roster grows, the veteran talent still has plenty of gas left in the tank next yar and that, most importantly, 2021 has a bright horizon for this long-suffering franchise.
2020? Throw these blown leads in the waste bin along with everything else in this wretched calendar year. Unless we’re about to see a miracle, things are about to change, and this football season looks like it’s close to being over.