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Bair: Missed opportunities weighing Falcons season down

Arthur Smith on loss to the Vikings:  "We’re not going to sugarcoat it or make excuses. We had our chances and didn’t get it done." 

ATLANTA – Arthur Smith considers Sunday's 31-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings an opportunity missed.

The Falcons head coach is right.

The Vikings didn't have Justin Jefferson or Kirk Cousins available. Their starting rookie quarterback was ruled out in the first quarter, leaving Josh Dobbs to play the rest of the game just days after being acquired from Arizona.

The Falcons out-gained their opponent and put up a season-high in scoring.

All that, and the Falcons still lost. In doing so, they fell out of first place in the NFC South and below .500 for the first time all season. They've dropped three of their last four games and have turned the ball over at least twice in all but one game since Week 4.

This loss, in particular, seemed to eat at everyone in red and black.

"We certainly had our opportunities. That would be fair (to say)," Smith said. "It's disappointing. I have felt that way after most of our losses. We are what we are. We're 4-5. We've got eight games left. Now we have to go do something about it."


The Falcons have to do something about it fast. Why? These missed opportunities are starting to pile up and weigh this season down. There are eight games left, but we've passed the halfway point. The Falcons have to start capitalizing on chances that are slipping just out of their grasp.

That literally happened on Sunday, when the Falcons defense put Minnesota in a bad spot. The Vikings had a do-or-die, 4th-and-7 with less than a minute left in the game. Bud Dupree went right by his blocker and had Dobbs in his grasp. The speedy quarterback wriggled out of it and escaped for a 22-yard gain that was essential to that decisive drive.

That wasn't the sole reason why the Falcons lost. They had plenty of chances but missed too many of them to come out on top.

"We didn't handle our business and that sucks because this is the NFL and you've got to win games," defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. "You don't get redos or do-overs. You have to win ball games. This one definitely stings."

Too often the Falcons are having to overcome critical mistakes to squeak out wins. In losses, those mistakes become insurmountable, and that has spelled trouble for Atlanta in 2023. This is happening too often for the Falcons to realize solid potential, which is a source of aggravation.

"There's no one in this locker room who is not frustrated," left tackle Jake Matthews said. "We're doing good things and we're getting it down there, but we've got to find a way to punch it in. The only answer I've got is to get back to work, look inward and find ways to improve. No one is satisfied with where we're at."

If the Falcons didn't consider themselves a good team, these results wouldn't be quite so bothersome. Both Matthews and cornerback Jeff Okudah said the Falcons hold themselves to a high standard.

They should. There's potential for far better if they can get past certain hang-ups, turnovers being chief among them. They need to be more efficient in the red zone, too – they only score touchdowns half the time, which is roughly middle-of-the-pack league-wide. Defensively, they've have to cut down on explosive plays.

Improve a little bit in each category and you'll find a consistent winner, a team playing "in sync." That's not what the Falcons are at this point, per Smith. They have time to get it right and start stacking wins, which is required to best a Saints team that's starting to figure it out offensively.

There's plenty of room for improvement. There's time to find great sync, but there's more sand in the bottom of the hourglass now. It's time to get going, lest the missed opportunities become too heavy and let a season of promise slip away.

"I still believe this team has what it takes to be successful," Campbell said. "We have to get back and work on it.

"…We have to look in the mirror and figure out what we need to do, to be accountable to one another and go win a ball game."

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