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Once you get past the heartbreak, a Falcons loss isn’t the worst thing - The Athletic


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by Jeff Schultz for The Athletic 

 

The Falcons have lost eight games by seven points or fewer this season. They have held a lead in the fourth quarter in five of those losses.

At a different time, in a different season, and if the current incarnation of disaster central wasn’t looking for a new general manager, new coach and new direction, there may be a gnawing feeling that this season could’ve been something great. But let’s be real. Once or twice is bad luck. When you blow fourth-quarter leads in one-third of your games, it’s who you are, down to the bone. Roughly one-half of all NFL games are decided by a touchdown or less, so to get drunk on the “we’re so close” narrative would be to ignore obvious deficiencies.

Which leads me to Sunday. The Falcons lost another game late, albeit at least this time to the best team in the league in Kansas City, and not the Lions or Cowboys or Panthers or Chargers. So, in a 4-11 season when collapses are ranked, at least there was some semblance of pride in a 17-14 loss.

Also, from the perspective of many of those who are not paid by the team, it was not the worst thing in the world.

This is a team that faces some level of a rebuild that may or may not include the quarterback. There’s a good chance Matt Ryan will be back for salary cap reasons. But there’s an equally strong possibility the new roster architects will see this as a prime offseason to draft Ryan’s replacement. Should the Falcons lose at Tampa Bay next week, they will draft between third and sixth in the first round in April, pending other results and tiebreakers.

The top three quarterbacks in the draft: Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Justin Fields (Ohio State via Georgia) and Zach Wilson (BYU). All may go in the top five.

So the Falcons moved up Sunday. Or down. Depending on your view.

Many/most fans will cheer. Players and coaches, not so much.

“Wins is what keeps you around, wins is what you do this for, wins is why they pay you,” Grady Jarrett said.

All true.

But when Ryan threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Laquon Treadwell to give the Falcons a 14-10 lead with 4:33 left, Twitter feeds filled with draft-projection dread from fans. In the third quarter, when the teams were tied at 7 in a game the Chiefs were expected to win easily, I put up a Twitter poll, asking readers if they wanted the Falcons to win or if they preferred a loss and better draft position.

Obvious disclaimer: Twitter polls are not scientific. But the early results were lopsided. After more than 1,000 votes, the no/draft voters (73 percent) were smothering the yes/win voters (27 percent).

“You understand that from the fans’ perspective,” Ryan said. “But our job is to go out and compete and win. That’s what we get paid to do.”

Ryan referred to the “fine line … in this league between being 14-1 and being 4-11.”

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

Great teams find ways to win. Bad teams find ways to lose.

It’s late December, and the Falcons have not run out of ways.

For most of four quarters, they defended the highest-scoring team in the league better than anybody else has. They pressured quarterback Patrick Mahomes frequently with a four-man rush and threw off the rhythm of the normally efficient Chiefs, at least once even dropping Jarrett into coverage. Mahomes, who went 24-for-44, had his worst game of the season.

But for the Falcons this season, there’s always some shadowy figure in a black cape holding a sling blade around the corner.

After Treadwell’s touchdown helped make it 14-10, the Chiefs drove from their own 25-yard line to the Falcons’ 25 in eight plays. Mahomes then attempted to hit Tyreek Hill in the end zone. Atlanta cornerback A.J. Terrell had good coverage, leaped and initially made an interception, only to drop the ball as he hit the ground. Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris challenged the seemingly obvious call, saying there was no replay on the stadium video board so he took a shot. He lost the decision and a timeout in a one-possession game. On the next play, Mahomes hit Georgia native Demarcus Robinson in the end zone to give the Chiefs the lead.

On the Falcons’ ensuing drive, Ryan drove the offense to the Chiefs’ 28 when, on third-and-1, Todd Gurley gained 2 yards for a first down. Morris strangely opted not to use one of his two remaining timeouts, presumably with the intention of catching the Chiefs’ defense off guard. But in doing so, the Falcons burned several valuable seconds before the next play. Ryan threw three straight incompletions, one under duress. Then Younghoe Koo, who had missed only one of his 36 field goal attempts all season, pushed a 39-yard attempt wide right.

Falcons lose. Falcons … win?

“The fan base is knowledgeable, and that’s their job to cheer for those type of things,” Morris said. “But our job is to win football ballgames. When that time comes (for the draft), we’ll address those things accordingly.”

Players and coaches are wired to compete in the moment. But it’s understandable if the moment for fans left a while ago, so they cling to the next tangible win — and that’s in April.
 

 

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7 minutes ago, Someday soon said:

The fan base is knowledgeable, and that’s their job to cheer for those type of things,” Morris said. “But our job is to win football ballgames. When that time comes (for the draft), we’ll address those things accordingly.”

 

we'll?  Does he think he's coming back?

I'll take Rude Awakenings for $400 Alex. :ninja:

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36 minutes ago, Killing Floor said:

I do not care about draft position. I’d take 1 more win over an earlier pick. They keep score for a reason. 
 

And New England did just fine with a decade of late picks. 

Play to win. 

Ill always keep this mindset you play to win. Picks are just numbers until you put names to them. If u select the wrong guy what use is the pick. 

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1 hour ago, Herr Doktor said:

What is sad is that I don't expect us to win.  I fully expect us to lose in a Pop Warner fashion.  And I feel terrible for being that way.  It is almost Schadenfreude at this point.

I’m full on Schadenfreude at this point.  I suffered 2/5/2017 for these bumbling idiots incompetence.  Let them suffer.  They deserve it.  Purge this city of all of them as far as I’m concerned.

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I had to work in the morning, but I came home and turned it on in the 4th. I was 100% rooting for them to take down the Chiefs, and it looked like they had a good chance, but I wasn't disappointed when they lost either. At this point, I'm past the point of being disappointed. Earlier in the season, when we had a chance to crawl back into having a decent season, I was disappointed when we would fall apart late in games. Now I just look at the positives: DQ gone, & a VERY high draft pick.  While draft picks aren't guaranteed to pan out, it makes the off season a lot more interesting.  That is this team's fault, and NOT MINE. They have made it to where I have to look forward to the offseason, because they **** the bed again.

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I know, this was a meaningless game, at least for us, but I'm not gonna lie, I was pulling for a Victory over the Super Bowl Champs right up until Koo missed the kick to tie the game.  Of course, we could have still lost, and probably would have.  But then I thought, this loss just gives us a better Draft Pick....some consolation, huh?  Now, I just hope we lose to Tampa and not mess up our Draft pick!  Ahhh, the joys of being a Falcon Fan --- 🤪

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