Atlanta Falcons First Takes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the Week 12 Win

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 26: Julio Jones
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 26: Julio Jones /

Atlanta Falcons continued their hot streak with a 34-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the week 12 win.

For the first time arguably all season, the Atlanta Falcons beat up on an opponent they should beat up on. Atlanta entered their week 12 contest versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as 10-point favorites and they delivered on that line.

In the words of Dan Quinn, this was the team’s most complete performance to-date from all three phases. The offense operated at peak efficiency; the defense got the stops when they needed to; and the special teams did not have any boneheaded blunders.

For at least one game, the 2017 Falcons operated like the ghosts-of-2016-past. However, there’s not many more cupcakes left on Atlanta’s schedule the rest of the season. In fact, there’s only one, against those very same Buccaneers.

Four of the five remaining opponents have a record better than the Falcons’ current mark of 7-4. If the Dirty Birds are to walk out of that stretch 3-2, which *should* get them in the playoffs, there are still corrections to be made.

But before we get to the bad in this week’s Falcons First Takes, I’ll give you the good news first.

The Good

The good news is the Atlanta Falcons offense, as we’ve come to expect, is back. For the third straight week, the Falcons converted on greater than 50% of its third downs, 66% of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns, and scored more than 27 points. They even connected on two touchdowns greater than 25 yards, which is the first time we could say that all year.

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Without one man though, none of that would have been possible. That man’s name is Quintorris Lopez Jones, who isn’t just good; he’s great…and even that is probably an understatement. On Sunday, Jones became the first receiver ever to record three instances of 250+ yards receiving in a game with his 12 catch, 253 yard and 2 TD outburst versus the Bucs.

For all the talk of who’s the best receiver between he and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, Julio set the record straight. If he’s not the best–and I, for one, believe he is–he’s without a doubt the most dominant. Which is all the more reason why Atlanta needs to feed its thoroughbred down the stretch run to the playoffs. Because simply put, no corner on the planet can stop Julio Jones one-on-one. Good things, correction, great things happen when the Falcons All-Pro wide receiver touches the ball.

The Bad

Given how well the Falcons offense is operating right now, the more times that unit sees the field the better. But frankly, that has been this team’s biggest issue all season long. And it’s even lingered with them during their current three game win streak. Consider the number of true possessions Atlanta’s offense has had in their last three outings:

  • Nine versus the Dallas Cowboys
  • Eight versus the Seattle Seahawks
  • Nine versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For a team that entered week 12 last in number of offensive drives with 97 (next worst was the New England Patriots with 103), the Tampa Bay game did not do anything to alleviate those concerns. Who might the culprit be, you ask?

It’s none other than the Atlanta Falcons defense.

Whether it’d be a porous run defense, inconsistent pass rush, or not generating enough takeaways, the Dirty Bird defense has struggled to get off the field all season long. According to Football Outsiders, Atlanta ranked last and second last in plays and time-of-possession surrendered per drive, respectively, as of week 11. That likely will not change once results are posted for week 12, considering the Ryan Fitzpatrick Buccaneer led offense averaged 7.5 plays and 3 minutes and 20 seconds per drive against the Falcons defense.

On the bright side, all of that may not matter much if the Falcons offense continues to fire on all cylinders, but it’s an unfair burden to place on one unit to be perfect, which we know has not always been the case this year. The defense is going to have to carry its own weight if Atlanta expects to fulfill greater aspirations than just making the postseason.

The Ugly

Unfortunately, it’ll be a lot harder for the Falcons defense to do that without two of their top three corners. Both Desmond Trufant (concussion) and Brian Poole (back) left Sunday’s game with injuries and did not return. In their absence, the Falcons struggled to adapt with just one other corner active on the roster in C.J. Goodwin. Free safety Ricardo Allen was pressed into nickel corner duties, as a result, with rookie Damontae Kazee becoming the new free safety.

It remains to be seen whether the front office addresses the depth at the position–perhaps bringing back former Falcons Jalen Collins or Deji Olatoye–to fill in temporarily while Trufant and Poole recover. With the NFL’s best receiving duo in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs coming to town this week, they’ll need all the help they can get. Even if it means swallowing their pride a bit.

Next: Trufant in concussion protocol, Freeman hopeful vs Vikings

The NFL is a war of attrition and often times the healthiest teams are the ones standing tall in the end. We saw that last year with the 2016 rendition of the Atlanta Falcons. And on Sunday, we saw how good the 2017 Falcons can be when all hands are on deck.