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3 Up, 3 Down: Falcons playoff stock at an all-time low (buy now?)

A few standouts on an otherwise terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Atlanta Falcons v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons lost another inexplicable game when all of the surrounding circumstances were in their favor. Kyler Murray made his first start in nearly a full calendar year; James Conner was in his first game back off of injured reserve and the Arizona Cardinals had some key injuries along the offensive line.

Instead, Murray did his best Josh Dobbs impersonation and ripped Atlanta’s heart out with a late-game scramble that set up the 25-23 victory for the Cardinals, a team that entered Sunday with only one win.

There’s no good way to explain this loss, and it’s clear the Falcons need to switch some things up during the bye week. And while the 2-0 division record is one small glimmer of hope for the playoffs, who can reasonably say at this point that they are confident in that remaining the case much longer? The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time, but maybe it also came too late.

Let’s see who’s heading into the week off on a high note, and who needs to take a hard look in the mirror.

Three Up

Nate Landman

If this season was going better, we’d all have much more time and energy to heap the praise on Landman that he deserves. Since filling in for the injured Troy Andersen, the undrafted linebacker has more than held his own. He’s been solid in run defense and came away with his first career interception on Sunday. Landman has also registered sacks in back-to-back games, highlighting his effectiveness as a blitzer. In a season with plenty of lows, Landman’s play is a bright spot.

Bijan Robinson

At long last, Robinson was the focal point of Atlanta’s offense, albeit in a losing effort. He carried the ball 22 times for 95 yards and recorded his second rushing touchdown of the season, bringing his scoring total on the year to four. Robinson was a key part of the Falcons’ first two touchdown drives, and his 17-yard run in the second quarter was a nice display of his incredible talent. Hopefully, we see many more games like this moving forward.

Scotty Miller

I’ve been critical of Miller this season, but he’s started to come on strong of late. He caught the team’s first touchdown on a 2-yard connection with Taylor Heinicke in the second quarter. It was the only catch of the day for Miller, but his role seems to be one of high leverage than high production.

Three Down

Atlanta’s passing game

This is on everyone: coaching, quarterbacks, and offensive line. What was that? At multiple points throughout the broadcast, it was mentioned that the Falcons had not attempted a pass longer than 10 air yards—that changed in the fourth quarter—and the numbers back up that level of conservative play. Combined, Ridder and Heinicke totaled 94 yards, one fewer than Robinson’s total.

I don’t know if Atlanta felt it could beat Arizona with a run-heavy focus and quick, safe passes. Maybe that makes sense, and the offensive line can’t be trusted in pass protection right now. But the Falcons finished with 70 net yards passing and Heinicke’s average depth of target was 4.4 yards. For his part, Ridder seemed to provide a spark to Atlanta’s passing attack upon entering the game due to Heinicke’s departure with a hamstring injury. There is no more pressing concern for the Falcons during the bye week than to figure out the offense, and I believe it starts with this particular aspect of that offense.

Richie Grant

Richie Grant had played every single snap for Atlanta’s defense entering Week 10, so it’s notable that he was only on the field for 61 of the unit’s 65 plays. Grant has definitely been in a recent slump, and he had another tough game on Sunday.

DeMarcco Hellams has seen his role increase, but he’s still clearly been the third safety on the field. He could stand a lot to gain over the bye week, though, if the Falcons are looking for areas to change things up.

Arnold Ebiketie

Not a banner day at all for Atlanta second-round defenders. I think Ebiketie has been a solid part of Atlanta’s two-man rotation as a pass rusher, but he made perhaps the most critical error of the game in allowing Kyler Murray to reverse pivot out of the pocket and pick up a first down on third-and-10. That scramble was the keystone play in the Cardinals’ final drive. In back-to-back weeks, the inability to maintain rush integrity has led to losses in otherwise winnable games. Ebiketie didn’t scratch the stat sheet, and his blunder was costly enough to land him here.

Do you have any shoutouts or callouts from Sunday’s game? Let us know in the comments.