It doesn’t really matter where the blame is pointed. The latest blown lead for the Atlanta Falcons was a total team effort, as a 30-22 lead in the fourth quarter dissolved and left the Falcons staring at a 34-30 defeat to the Washington Football Team on Sunday.
It was a contest that seemed all to familiar to most, if not all, Falcons fans. Now the team stands at 1-3 and facing a tough week ahead as they travel to London, England for their next contest. Before that one gets underway however, let’s highlight what we learned from their week four escapade.
#1: Same old story, once again
Despite a change of faces on the sideline, a similar outcome reappeared. One that is quite upsetting even to the casual Falcons fan. A lead in the middle of the fourth quarter was quickly wiped away as the Falcons were unable to make plays in any of the three phases as the game dwindled down.
Receivers dropped passes, defenders missed tackles and turnover opportunities, and play calling left you more confused than encouraged. This has been a repeated offense for so long now. From regime to regime, seeing this type of result on a frequent basis has become numbing by this point. If Arthur Smith wants a culture change, this kind of losing has to cease.
#2: Cordarrelle goes off
As if he was not a gem to begin with, veteran receiver Cordarrelle Patterson decided to use Sunday as an opportunity to set a career-high in touchdown receptions. His three touchdown catches against Washington were a personal career-high, and his third score gave the Falcons a 23-19 lead early in the third quarter.
With the season steadily progressing, so is the usage of Patterson on offense. It is quite well established at this point that he is going to be a main cog in the offense. That was a well-invested $3 million, to say the least.
#3: Nice outing from the veteran
This stage of a quarterback’s career does not often bring a new scheme and new faces to and find familiarity and improvement. But for Matt Ryan, that was the cash on Sunday
Ryan was able to tap into his dependability by throwing for four touchdowns and having his best season so far in terms of passer rating (111.5). Going against a talented defensive front, Ryan was able to be kept relatively clean and because of that, he was able to catch a rhythm and do some damage to the Washington defense. If the line can keep him comfortable in the weeks ahead, Ryan showed he can still do plenty of damage.
#4: Lacking the winning plays
Whether it was dropped interceptions that could have prevented scoring opportunities, the lack of pass rush or the allowance of conversions on third and fourth downs, the Falcons defense took a step back after what was a solid outing against the Giants in week three. The unit produced one sack, a 32.1% pass rush win rate (second lowest this season), 8.79 yards per pass attempt allowed, and 6.6 yards per play.
Allowing Washington to score on four of their final five offensive possessions was absolutely inexcusable. Yes, talent is needed, but not being able to find anything late on the defensive side of the ball has also been a constant for entirely too long.
#5: An unknown identity
It’s only four weeks into the season but we still do not know what this team is or can be. A physical one with an aggressive defense? A well-coached team that finds success through sharp fundamentals and roster-wide football IQ? A team with a profound, repeatable rhythm that is able to wear down teams on both sides of the ball?
We may not get that answer until the season concludes at this point. But what transpired Sunday did not provide any clarity whatsoever, as the team’s defensive steps forward were erased and the offense finally delivered. Whatever identity is established, their current reputation as an organization known for wasting leads and dropping victories must disappear soon.