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Bair: All is not lost but Arthur Smith, staff must correct troubling trends

Falcons will use free weekend to chart course to fix problem spots, end losing skid


The Falcons didn’t even have the 24-hour rule available to process Sunday's lopsided loss to the Cowboys. They were watching Patriots film on the flight back from Dallas – probably before that as well – to prepare for Thursday night's showdown against New England.

That game didn't play out the same way but ended with a similar result, a one-sided affair where the offense couldn't do much of anything right.

Now the Falcons will have a miniature bye weekend to reflect upon what happened in a flash, where they dropped two games in a five-day span and find themselves down in the NFC standings.

Improvement within the conference will only happen if the Falcons can fix the issues presented during this two-game losing streak.

Head coach Arthur Smith and staff will work on doing that with the extra time heading into Week 12's preparation for Jacksonville.

"You've got to look at everything," Smith said after Thursday’s 25-0 loss to New England. "We'll take this weekend and do a lot of self-reflection. Like I said, we're going to get out of this hole because we have to and we will. We've got the right guys to do it."

This breather is essential to getting things fixed and turned around appropriately. Smith prides himself and looking at his team objectively, stripping emotion away to home in on the issue itself. That doesn't come instantly, certainly not after what happened against Dallas and New England. The time will come during this weekend's deep dive into what currently troubles his team.

The Falcons will come out of it with a course of action designed to get right, to play better in all phases and along the lines of scrimmage especially. They have been bad on third down and must improve both there and in creating higher-percentage conversion attempts. They must be protect the passer and create rushing lanes. They have to avoid pre-snap penalties that drive Smith mad. They have to get after the passer more frequently and avoid missed tackles that turn short gains into longer ones.

There's work to do, sure.

One pervading thought that Smith pointed out here: the Falcons are not dead. Not by a long shot. Stemming a negative tide is vital at this exact juncture, a real low point in the 2021 campaign. The Falcons are fighters. They have to get back up and keep swinging.

"It's about as rough as you can feel after the emotions of getting back to 4-4," Smith said in his Monday press conference. "We deserve to be where we're at. We haven't played well enough against two really good teams. You sit in the moment at 4-6 and with how that feels, but you have to have perspective and say we have seven games to go.

"We're going to swing at it. All that matters is going down to Jacksonville and getting back in the mix. And that's the truth. Thankfully we're not in a 1-9 hole here. It feels bad and I get it. I get the frustrations. You have to own it. We clearly have not played well enough the past two weeks, but it's not like it's all lost. We have tough guys here. We have the right coaches. We'll come back and put together a plan and go down to Jacksonville and try to win a football game."

All seemed lost at the start of the season, following lopsided losses to Philadelphia and Tampa Bay but got right by winning three of the next four games. They fixed issues then. They'll have to do so again, albeit with more holes on an already thin roster created by injury.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots during Week 11 of 2021.

Coming back strong from a stretch where the Falcons lost two games by a combined 68-3 seems daunting, especially considering the offensive struggles on third down especially. It's a job requirement for those in red and black, to find solutions to issues presented during this downturn.

"We've done it before," Smith said. "Like I said, it's continual improvement. You hope not to ride the roller coaster. We got to fix things and we are going to get them fixed and we'll get them fixed in a hurry."

There's still plenty of time to get right and get hot, but we're past the halfway point here. It's time to turn it on and build some of the positivity to make up ground lost over the last two losses.

"We're going to play seven more games," Smith said. "As bad as this feels, a lot of things can happen in seven games. If we hadn't done it at all, sure, you'd be, 'All right, what are you going to realistically do?' But we have done it [after Week 2] and we will get it fixed. All the options are on the table. We're going to look at everything."


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