Atlanta Falcons First Takes: Observations from Week Nine


Atlanta Falcons dropped their fourth game in the last five contests, despite another fast start. How much of these breakdowns relate to the Super Bowl hangover? This week’s Falcons First Takes has the answer.

The Atlanta Falcons had all the momentum through nearly two quarters versus the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Facing a 2nd & 2 from their opponents’ 36 yard line, the Falcons managed only one yard on the next three plays.

Carolina took over on downs and went on to score 20 unanswered points on their next four possessions, effectively taking Atlanta out of its rhythm.

Just like that, Uncle Mo was no longer a friend of the Falcons. In fact, momentum has been a fickle frienemy of the Dirty Birds dating back to last year’s Super Bowl.

Since that terrible day, Atlanta has had a knack for seizing control of a game only to give it all back in the second half. In 2017 alone, it has led to losses versus the Bills, Dolphins and Panthers.

And if a few breaks had gone differently, the same could have been said in the Bears and Lions games. So, what is causing these mental breakdowns for the Falcons midway through games?

The Falcons are their own worst enemy

No one from Dirty Bird Nation wanted to admit it coming in, but the Super Bowl hangover is real. This is a team that has clearly gotten inside its own head and it is costing them ballgames.

Consider two plays from this past week’s game that demonstrate this perfectly.

The Panthers had just finished off their second straight six minute drive to open the second half. They now had a commanding 20-10 lead and the pressure was on the Falcons’ offense to answer.

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As is often the case, Atlanta got off to a fast start on the ensuing drive with a nine yard gain to receiver Julio Jones. But then quarterback Matt Ryan did something very reminiscent of the Super Bowl.

On 2nd & 1, he voluntarily went to the ground for a sack and a loss of five. It is mental mistakes like this that show the entire team is pressing, including the face of the franchise.

Even the all-planet wide receiver Julio Jones has not been immune to the lapses. On the very next drive, Steve Sarkisian dialed up a beautiful double move to Jones in the end zone.

Only problem was Julio failed to bring in the wide open pass. If that doesn’t tell you the Falcons have a problem that goes beyond play calling or run defense, nothing will.

What kind of fight do the Falcons have in them

These next eight weeks will be very telling for the Falcons.

Are they going to let their inner demons continue to beat them until they give up entirely? Or are they going to find the mental fortitude to punch back when opposing teams stand their ground during the initial onslaught?

Because the numbers support the claim this team does a lot of things well…when they’re not beating themselves.

On offense, the Falcons are tied for 1st in yards per play and 2nd in yards per drive. The reason this has not translated to more wins is twofold.

For one, the Falcons have the fewest number of drives in the league. Fewer drives equals fewer opportunities to score points, which has been the second issue. While Atlanta is just 17th in points scored per game, they are 8th in points per drive.

If the defense did a better job stretching out games, the scoring woes would go away; case in point being the Jets game. However, Atlanta’s defense continues to rank near the bottom in time of possession per drive; part of which stems from a unit that boasts the 29th rated run defense according to DVOA.

With the DVOA 2nd rated rushing attack coming to town this week, we’ll see exactly what kind of fight this team has. They can’t afford any more losses if they plan to turn this season around.

Next: What’s wrong with the Atlanta Falcons

It’s put up or shut up time for the Atlanta Falcons.