At this point, you’re slightly wondering what can the Atlanta Falcons do to top this. Just a week after suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Dallas Cowboys on the road in week two, the Falcons showcase against the Chicago Bears was a repeat.
A 16-point lead in the fourth quarter with about six minutes remaining did not conclude with their first win of the season. Let’s take a look at the five takeaways from their week three matchup.
Same ol’ story for the Falcons
It has become part of their identity. The Atlanta Falcons are known as a team that can’t seem to close out a game and Sunday was another clear example. The Falcons were nursing a 26-10 lead about halfway through the fourth quarter then the wheels suddenly fell off one by one in catastrophic fashion.
The defense could not make a game-changing play, which most good defenses do late in games. From the 10-minute mark in the third quarter, the Falcons had six consecutive offensive drives ending in no points. Even an undisciplined penalty on special teams late in the fourth quarter arrived on time to make things easier for the Bears. It’s a theme for the Falcons so far. Just a matter of how they’re going to allow a blown lead to happen.
Ridley shines in Julio’s absence
It was the first time Ridley took the field without having the presence of Julio Jones on the same turf. Smartly, the Falcons decided very early to get their 2018 first round pick involved in the game plan. On the Falcons first play from scrimmage, Ridley hauled in a 63-yard reception to get things started as the Falcons took a 7-0 lead after just three plays. The 110-yard performance was Ridley’s third consecutive 100-yard game of the season and he showed that even without Jones, he is still able to make plays and produce for the offense.
Injuries are hindering the team considerably
The Falcons took the field with a lengthy list of key players unavailable. During pre-game warmups, Jones was ruled out while the team also had safety Ricardo Allen, right tackle Kaleb McGary and defensive end Takkarist McKinley all banged up and not in uniform. During the game, the offense watched Russell Gage suffer a concussion and be ruled out and stud defensive tackle Grady Jarrett injured his hip late in the game and was not on the field late to help keep the Bears at bay.
Injuries have been an annoyance throughout the entire league so far this season but hopefully, the Falcons can overcome this speed bump and soon.
Fading away from the run game
Many teams resort to the ground game late in games to wear down defenses and look to protect late leads. The run game may still have an old school feel outlook for most but when it is effective, it can be damaging. Over Atlanta’s last six offensive drives of the game, they executed a total of 25 plays. Only nine of those were runs. For the game, the Falcons totaled 144 yards on the ground and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Both Todd Gurley and Brian Hill registered a touchdown run as well.
While the run game has not been a staple of the offense for the season, this was the one game where it was hitting it’s stride late in the game. For a team that was in possession of a lead late, it appeared once again that the run game was not valued enough, especially against a Bears defense that has a superb pass rushing group.
Why not neutralize your opponent’s strength when protecting a lead? The Falcons continue to have no good answers for questions like those.