The Atlanta Falcons lost another heartbreaker in this one to the Arizona Cardinals. They did their jobs at times on defense, but in clutch moments, the defense let everyone down again with missed tackles. The special teams unit had a rough game as well. Overall, this game rests on the head of Arthur Smith. Two straight losses due to his poor coaching decisions have led to the Falcons having a 4-6 record heading into the bye. This is unacceptable.
Winner: QB Desmond Ridder
Desmond Ridder may have solidified a starting role for at least the games after the bye with his solid play coming in off the bench for Taylor Heinicke after Heinicke got hurt in this one. This may not sound like a great line when he went 4-for-6 for 40 yards and no turnovers or touchdowns, but he was able to run the ball well and scored the go-ahead touchdown with under three minutes left in the game. Ridder should definitely be the guy moving forward... at least til 2024.
Loser: QB Taylor Heinicke
Even before Taylor Heinicke hurt his hamstring, he was not having a great game. He had two turnover worthy throws and was unable to keep the ball moving consistently for the Falcons offense. In the third quarter, they had just five yards gained the entire quarter. That's where the Falcons lost the game. Heinicke finished 8-for-15 for 55 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also added 34 yards on the ground on four carries, mainly on scrambles.
Winner: CB A.J. Terrell
The Falcons had a lot of bad play on offense and defense this week. However, A.J. Terrell was not one of those guys. Outside of a single missed tackle on a play that was close to a touchdown, Terrell did a great job wrapping up in the open field and holding his coverage responsibilities to low targets and catches. Terrell did a great job this week shutting down his outside receiver. The Falcons definitely need to keep him past this season.
Loser: Run defense
Sure, there were six scrambles that accounted for 33 rushing yards for the Cardinals. But the designed runs were almost as effective. The Cardinals had 89 yards on 20 designed runs and were able to push around a Falcons front four most of the game. That front four was missing the best two players on it in David Onyemata and Grady Jarrett, but they'll be without Jarrett the rest of the year. Hopefully, Onyemata is back after the bye, because the defensive tackles need a talent infusion.
Winner: CB Jeff Okudah
Jeff Okudah has been a revelation. He was beat on one play all game, and outside of that one play, was just as shut down as Terrell was. The outside corners did their job in funneling the play to the center of the defense. They need to both be kept. Okudah didn't light up the stat sheet with just one tackle on the entire day. But he did so much off the ball, that it forced his side of the field to be ignored in the passing game.
Loser: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie
Arnold Ebiketie had a rough game in this one. When he wasn't completely invisible, he was losing contain on Kyler Murray. The worst example of it was when he had Murray dead to rights on a sack, but instead of playing the proper contain angle, he tried to cut the angle short, and it led to Murray scrambling for a first down on a 3rd-and-10 during the final drive. Had he capitalized on that sack, it would have been a loss of at least 10 yards, forcing the Cardinals into a clutch 4th-and-20 play with under two minutes to go.
Winner: K Younghoe Koo
Another perfect game for Younghoe Koo. Koo went 1-for-1 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points. Koo is the most reliable part of the Falcons offense. The frustrating thing here is that while he is the best piece of the Falcons offense right now, he shouldn't be even listed in this article every single week. Koo is fantastic, but this kind of game is not normally what should be listed in the winner's section of this article. He is a great kicker, but the team needs to be better around him.
Loser: SS Richie Grant
Richie Grant had another rough day in coverage. He was primarily against Trey McBride. McBride put up 131 yards on eight catches. On top of that, McBride had a clutch catch on a deep pass to help the Cardinals seal the game on the final series. Grant busted that coverage and has had too many coverage busts this season. There's a real question of whether it might be time to bench him for seventh-round rookie DeMarcco Hellams at this point in the season.
Winner: LB Nate Landman
One of the few bright spots on defense was Nate Landman. He had his issues covering Trey McBride in this one when he was one-on-one with him, but he also added an interception, a sack and had eight tackles on the game. When it comes to solid linebacker play, the Falcons had a good day in general. The problem is that the linebackers shouldn't be matched up in man coverage against tight ends. They are missing Troy Andersen, and his athleticism in the defense right now.
Loser: Punt coverage
The second long busted punt coverage of the game happened in this one. On a kick to Greg Dortch, the Falcons lost their contain, and Lorenzo Carter couldn't wrap up on a tackle. Dortch wound up bringing that one back for 49 yards to set up an easy Cardinals touchdown. Special teams has been an issue all season, but this one was an embarrassing game to lose. That punt coverage bust was the biggest mistake the special teams unit made all game, but it's still unacceptable.
Winner: RB Bijan Robinson
"Feed Bijan!" was the refrain from Falcons fans and others who cover the team all week. Well, Bijan Robinson got fed in this one. He had 23 offensive touches for 106 yards and a touchdown. He played superbly in this one, but it still wasn't enough for the Falcons to pull out a win. Robinson should see his touches stick in a similar spot week to week, even if his carries do end up dipping back down to the 13-16 range moving forward.
Ultimate Loser: HC Arthur Smith
Arthur Smith should firmly be on the hot seat as the Atlanta Falcons head coach. He looks at times like he's lost the team. He looks at times like he's in over his head. His play-calling is atrocious. His quarterback management has been terrible. And his overall scheme has been figure out by NFL defenses. The fact that the Falcons didn't blow out the Cardinals is understandable. The fact that they lost to the now 2-8 Cardinals is not. Smith needs to be given warning that the losing needs to stop now. Or he'll be losing his job.
All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.