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Falcons say there is no validation in being competitive but still losing - The Athletic

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by Tori McElhaney for The Athletic 


On Wednesday, before Christmas Eve and a plane ride to Kansas City and before a 17-14 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions, Raheem Morris was asked how much he thinks about how close the Falcons have come to having a very different record in 2020.

After Sunday’s loss, the Falcons sit at 4-11. But they have had their chances to be so much better.

In Week 2, they lost by one to Dallas after a special-teams blunder. The next week, they lost by four to Chicago. In Week 7, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford mounted a game-winning drive for a one-point Detroit win. Most recently, the Falcons have lost to San Diego by three and saw Tom Brady and the Bucs come back and win by four after being scoreless in the first half.

Add the Falcons’ loss to the Chiefs on Sunday to this long and tedious list. And in this game, like all the others, the Falcons had their chances, many of them.

If Brandon Powell doesn’t fumble in the fourth quarter …

If A.J. Terrell comes down with a late-game interception to keep Kansas City out of the end zone …

If the Falcons Pro Bowl kicker Younghoe Koo makes the 39-yard field goal at the end of the game to send it to overtime …

There have been so many “ifs” this year — too many to keep any team, any organization or any fan base sane.

But before this next chapter was added, Morris was asked about the previous “ifs” this season. On Wednesday, before any of these new footnotes were added, he said you could say that about every season.

“The year we went to the Super Bowl, you were one play away from not making the playoffs here,” Morris said. “I believe we always laugh about it, but we were at a point where we had just lost a couple of games in a row. Then we went on this tear, and we tore through the league at the end and was able to go on this nice run. (We) go to the Super Bowl and have an opportunity to play in that game. Every single year is kind of like that. It was one play away. One play here, one play there. We just have to get closer to finishing off those games to put ourselves in position to right now be in playoff contention, because that’s what you ultimately work for and what you want to do.”

And then, Sunday, it happened again.

“They all hurt,” Morris said after the loss to the Chiefs. Being close to a win without actually winning is a feeling the Falcons know too well. “They all feel the same. They all are the same.”

But that wasn’t the comment that stuck out the most after the game. It was this one from Morris: “The biggest takeaway from (the game) is that we can play with anybody.”

Morris said the Falcons have shown repeatedly that they have the capabilities to “have a chance to go out there and get after” whoever the opponent happens to be. They’ve been able to do that at almost every turn of the season, except: “We haven’t been able to win these games that go down to the wire,” Morris said.

So, if the Falcons can play with these teams, including really good ones like Tampa Bay and Kansas City, then what is validation if they’re unable to win at the end?

Matt Ryan said it’s “a great opportunity” for players to learn what they are capable of and how fine the line is between being 14-1 and being 4-11.

“We’ve got to grow up and figure out how to not make mistakes in critical situations, to make the plays when we have our chances,” Ryan said. “If we can do that, I think we can be a pretty good football team moving forward.”

Ryan said you never know when those plays are going to come. It’s not always going to be the final kick or a third-down situation on the final series of the game. There are a number of plays that make the difference. Usually, a missed assignment in the first half carries just as much weight as a botched play in the second half, Ryan explained. It’s realizing in the moment that those plays count. It’s recognizing that the players have to make the most of even the smallest of opportunities. That recognition, or lack thereof, is something the Falcons haven’t been able to recover from this season.

Grady Jarrett said it has happened too much this season for the Falcons to be unaffected by it. Any time you don’t win it hurts. Losing like the Falcons did Sunday, over and over, can take a toll, Jarrett noted.

“We can play with anyone,” he said. “But that’s almost the most frustrating part: having lost the games that we’ve lost in the margin of defeat we have.”

The saying goes that a win is a win no matter how ugly. Well, the other side of the coin is that a loss is a loss no matter how close. The Falcons needed more wins, even if they were ugly. Instead, a new verb was created in the form of a social media punch line: Falconing. It’s the act of losing a winnable game at the last second.

“Wins is what keeps you around. Wins is what you do it for. Wins is why they pay you,” Jarrett said. “We have to find a way to get some wins.”

Which brings us to this conclusion: In this league, there is no validation in playing with teams if you do not have a win to show for it.

“We’re not satisfied with playing just a close, good game,” Terrell said. “We want to put games away and win.”


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Jarrett is right on with his quote "Losing like the Falcons did Sunday, over and over, can take a toll". This team hasnt been right since the superbowl. Same top players, coaches, front office hear the same voices for years. Its hard to chg in that envirormemt. Change starts with blank!

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