In what has become a theme of 2016, the Atlanta Falcons defense was unable to make big stops and keep points off the board on Sunday.
Falcons Nation will lose sleep over the image of Eric Berry’s interception return for 2 points in the 4th quarter. Few will recall the 4:53 remaining when the Chiefs took the ensuing possession. Atlanta’s defense had the opportunity to make a stop and get the ball back but failed miserably.
The Chiefs began the game’s final drive on their 8-yard line after an illegal block penalty on the kickoff. The stars seemed to be aligning for Atlanta. A ‘3-and-out’ assured the Falcons would end up with just under 2 minutes and decent field position. Matt Bryant was 3-for-3 and already hit from 59 yards out. It seemed destiny that Bryant would kick the game winner as time expired.
Re-enter the NFL’s 27th ranked defense.
Kansas City gained 14 yards on a 2nd down pass to Travis Kelce that brought the clock inside of 4 minutes. The Chiefs then converted on a 3rd-and-6 pass play that gained 10 yards and put the game on ice. On that play, Albert Wilson ran a slant pattern that seemed absolutely uncontested by the Falcons secondary.
It was understandable Atlanta would respect the speed of Kansas City’s receiving corps. It was; however, embarrassing to watch play after play where the Chiefs took advantage of a, wide-open, middle of the field. Could the coverage have been any softer?
The Falcons defense played with a lack of confidence that seemed more contagious as the game went on. It actually spread along the sideline. Atlanta’s passing game lost a ton of confidence, as evidenced by Matt Ryan’s attempts to force underneath throws to Devonta Freeman. Dan Quinn certainly had no confidence in his defense, thus he forced 2-point conversion tries instead taking extra points.
Week 13 was never going to be an easy task for a defense now playing without Desmond Trufant and Adrian Clayborn. Things won’t get any easier as only Clayborn stands a chance at possibly returning. We can expect more dynamic play from Vic Beasley but not even he is capable of being in more than one place at any given time.
Dan Quinn will need to find a solution on defense or bankroll playoff hopes on his offense simply outscoring opponents. The Falcons can outscore a lot of teams but as the saying goes, “defense wins championships”.