As they’ve done for much of the 2023 season, the Falcons let an opportunity slip by. They are still technically alive for the division title, but their 37-17 loss to the Chicago Bears provided few reasons to believe this team deserves to be in the postseason.
There were some excellent individual performances, which I’ll highlight here in a moment, but the lack of connectivity between the offense, defense and special teams continues to plague the Falcons. For a team to reach the postseason it needs to play winning football in all three phases more often than not; Atlanta hasn’t done that nearly enough this season.
This has been a weird year, to be sure. And it’s unlikely that some grand conclusions will be drawn in Week 18 to help sort the whole thing out. Some pieces are in place, but there are some clear holes as well. More importantly, though, the entire vibe of this team still feels off, and that should be a key focus for the offseason. Find a personality.
Let’s take a look at some positive and negative performances from the Falcons’ final game of 2023.
Going down 14-0 early in the game likely prevented the Falcons from running the ball as much as they would have liked, and Allgeier may have been the biggest victim. He only touched the ball six times on Sunday, but he delivered the biggest offensive highlight.
TYLER ALLGEIER ALL THE WAY!!— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) December 31, 2023
CBS | NFL+ pic.twitter.com/Ec8t0YUYMs
His 75-yard touchdown reception was the longest play of the season for Atlanta, and it provided another reminder that Allgeier is also a very good young player. The Falcons have struggled to find the right balance for Allgeier and Robinson in their first year together, but the talent is clearly there. Allgeier has 842 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns this season.
There’s a chance next Sunday is Campbell’s last game as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, so I want to sing his praises here while I can. He and Jessie Bates are the clearest examples of how great players are great all of the time. Regardless of the record, opponent or game situation, Campbell’s effort is apparent and commendable.
He collapsed the pocket around Justin Fields regularly, and although the Falcons had a tough time actually getting the Bears quarterback to the ground, Campbell gave them opportunities. He finished the game with a team-high six pressures and was also excellent in setting the edge against the run.
Although the Falcons generally struggled in coverage against Chicago, Hughes had a solid game. He was only targeted twice and gave up one catch, which he stopped immediately for a 1-yard loss.
Atlanta will likely shuffle around its secondary again this offseason, but Hughes is a nice depth piece for the Falcons to have under contract for one more year. He’s proven that he can start for stretches, and he brings some physicality to his unit.
This was a tough outing for Terrell against one of the best receivers in the league, although he was clearly held on Justin Fields’s touchdown run. Moore caught his touchdown while covered by Jessie Bates, but he made several big plays while in Terrell’s coverage as well. Terrell was targeted six times on Sunday, and he gave up four catches for 85 yards, including 47 yards after the catch.
Terrell has been pretty good all season long, and this was his first bad game in a while, so it’s not really that big of a deal. But a bounce-back game against New Orleans would be nice.
The snowy and windy conditions definitely played a role in Koo missing his first two attempts of the game, but those misses really dug the Falcons in an early hole. His first kick from 50 yards out died short of the uprights while trying to cut through a wall of wind and thick white flakes, and his second kick from 42 yards away curved left and bounced off the post.
Koo was fresh off a 5-for-5 performance against Indy, but he even started that game with a miss that was called off due to a penalty. He hasn’t been nearly as automatic lately, but the offseason will wipe the slate clean.
One week after playing a big role in the offense looking as sharp as it has all season, Heinicke struggled mightily on the road in bad weather conditions. He completed only 10 of his 29 pass attempts for 163 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Take away the 75-yard touchdown pass on Allgeier’s screen, however, and the numbers are very bleak.
Heinicke did do a good job using his legs to keep some drives alive, but that’s scraping the bottom of the barrel for praise. He sustained an ankle injury late in the game, which led to Desmond Ridder getting back behind center once again. It remains to be seen if Heinicke can make it back for Week 18 to try to end the year on a high note.
Do you have any shoutouts or callouts from Sunday’s game? Let us know in the comments.