ATLANTA -- The cold, harsh reality of a flood is that it doesn't happen quickly. It accumulates. In terms of natural disasters, tornados can form in a matter of minutes, destroying in seconds. A flood starts with a single drop of rain. And that one drop, maybe the size of a nickel, turns into a downpour which - over hours - can turn a sedated creek into a rushing river that engulfs a road.
The Falcons showed on Sunday night the devastation of a raindrop. Or in this case, one small missed opportunity built upon another.
Against the Washington Football Team, Atlanta was unable to hold off the flood of a 34-30 loss. There were too many missed opportunities, too many small moments that accumulated to something big: A very frustrating loss.
"It's the small things that add up over time that end up costing you," Matt Ryan said.
There were a number of moments that led to the loss, but in the grand scheme of the overall tale of the tape, it wasn't just one moment that changed the game. There were many.
In his post game press conference, Arthur Smith ran through a few.
There were the dropped "sure" interceptions by Erik Harris. Harris had a great second half before a calf injury took him out of the game in the fourth quarter. However, "great" could have been "game-changing" if any of his PBUs turned into interceptions.
"We had plenty of chances to go pick the ball," Smith said, "and we didn't."
There was the go-ahead touchdown Washington scored in the final minute of the game, with Taylor Heinicke hitting J.D. McKissic for a 30-yard catch-and-run on third down. Deion Jones missed an open field tackle that left McKissic room to run and leap into the endzone. That was the touchdown that would win the game for Washington.
"They extended plays," Smith said of Washington, "like when (Heinicke) found the running back. It was a play extension. He leaked out and we don't make the play. They do and they get the touchdown to go ahead."
Smith said his initial snap judgement of the game had a lot to do with Washington's abilities to extend plays. The difference was the Falcons couldn't do the same. This leads us to the offense's water droplets on Sunday that contributed to the flood, because this loss wasn't just on the defense. Far from it.
The Falcons offense had its chance to put this game away. It actually had a few chances in the fourth quarter, to be honest.
One moment in particular came when the Falcons got the ball back with 3:52 left in the game. Washington had just cut the score to 30-28. All the Falcons need to do was burn the clock, but they couldn't. Instead, they went three-and-out. Mike Davis was dropped for a loss of three on first down. He got those yards back on second down, but the damage had been done, and a five-yard pass to Davis on third down didn't give the Falcons enough to convert. They were forced to punt, giving the ball back to Washington with two minutes left in the game. It was plenty of time to go down and do what they ended up doing to win it.
"If we want to be the kind of football team we want to be and the type of offense we want to be you get in those situations you want to move the football, burn the clock and get some first downs and win that football game. We didn't do it," Ryan said. "That part is disappointing, and we have to improve there."
So, you see, this loss isn't on one particular facet of the game. It's on the offense's inability to burn the clock late. It's on the defense giving up too many big chunk plays late. It's on the defensive backs for not coming down with manageable interceptions, or keeping things in front of them. It's on the receivers for not making some key catches down the stretch. There were one too many dropped passes.
Ryan concluded his postgame press conference by saying there were a lot of men in that locker room that would have "liked to have made a play or two that could have changed the outcome." But that didn't happen. The small mistakes accumulated, and the Falcons are left trying to wade through the flood of missed opportunities.
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.