It was all good just a week ago.
The Falcons were riding high following a win over the rival Saints in dramatic fashion. First came Cordarrelle Patterson's 64-yard reception, then a game-winning field goal from Younghoe Koo as time expired.
The win felt different.
It was the Falcons first over a team with a winning record, and Matt Ryan looked as good as he had all season against a defense that stifled Tom Brady and the Buccaneers' No.1 offense just a week before. Not to mention, the win moved the Falcons into the seventh seed, the final playoff spot.
All of that momentum came to a stop on Sunday. The Falcons lost to the Dallas Cowboys 43-3. In coach Arthur Smith's assessment of the team's performance in the loss, he did not hold back.
"We didn't do hardly anything well. We didn't play well as a team – clearly." Smith said. "...I gotta do a better job getting us prepared clearly. We weren't prepared coming in here, and we got avalanched in that second quarter and never recovered."
And an avalanche might be the perfect metaphor to describe how the Cowboys ran away from the Falcons in the second quarter.
The quarter began with an Ezekiel Elliot touchdown to give the Cowboys a 14-3 lead. And quickly as avalanches do, the points piled up, and the Cowboys led 28-3 with just over a minute left before halftime.
The Falcons needed some kind of momentum before halftime, whether it be a field goal, touchdown, or even just a positive drive following two straight drives that ended in punts.
But instead, the Cowboys momentum continued.
Ryan was strip-sacked by Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons on the first play from scrimmage. Luckily for the Falcons, the ball was recovered by offensive lineman Kaleb McGary. With 37 seconds left, the Falcons, unable to gain any significant yardage, were forced to punt on 4th and 18 from their 15-yard line.
As Dustin Colquitt wound up to punt, Dorance Armstrong broke through the Falcons protection and blocked the punt with his right arm. Defensive back Nahshon Wright jumped on the fumble in the end zone for a Dallas touchdown, and the Cowboys added a two-point conversion to go into halftime leading 36-3. All told, they scored 29-points in the second quarter, their most ever in franchise history.
"Responsibility falls on me," Smith said. "I gotta get this team ready to go. We're lucky it only counts as one, and we got to turn around, and we gotta play a really good New England team that's on a roll in our home stadium on Thursday… When you score three points, and you give a 43, It's a pretty bad day at the office, but give credit to the Cowboys. Like I said, we were outcoached and outplayed."
Just last week, the Cowboys were in the Falcons position. With six minutes remaining in the game against the Denver Broncos, the Cowboys were down 30-0, their six-game win streak snapped, and players and coaches looked dejected on the sidelines.
Now the Cowboys were on the opposite side of the avalanche, and that is the nature of the NFL. While a loss like this can feel much more significant than just one game, the Falcons will have to forget about this loss quickly with just three days to recover before taking on the New England Patriots.
And the Falcons have a leader in Ryan who has been through tough losses like this before.
In his thirteenth season, he's mastered the art of having a short memory. While Ryan admitted the loss was disappointing and that he and the Falcons played poorly, he knows how quickly things can change in the NFL.
"Days like today happen, and it's disappointing," Ryan said. "... That's what happens when you are going against a good football team – things get ugly quickly.
"It's part of being a professional and being mentally tough. When you get knocked down, you gotta get back up quick… We gotta have a great attitude getting into the building tomorrow so we can play our best Thursday night."
And maybe they'll be on the other side of the avalanche.
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 Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Terrin Waack. 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.