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Bair: Falcons must make adjustments, realize potential before season slips away

Goals are getting harder to achieve with losses piling up and time starting to run out.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Drake London stood in the Falcons locker room answering questions after Sunday's 25-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, doing his best to remain even keeled.

Then he was asked about the emotions that come with the Falcons' third straight loss. London absorbed the question for a beat, with four seconds of silence spent deciding how to respond. It clearly struck a nerve.

"I don't know," London said.

Three more seconds went by before he started speaking again with an intensity and earnestness that could be felt by the reporters around him.

"I don't like losing," London said. "I'm just going to keep it at that. I don't like losing and I don't want it to become a habit of ours. We need to switch some things up."

London's right. The Falcons can't keep going this way and expect to achieve their goals. The results aren't there. Neither is the consistency and the explosiveness required to stack the wins required to claim the NFC South.

While they're only a game behind New Orleans in the division, that's somewhat inconsequential at this point. Why? The Falcons aren't playing winning football. Nothing else matters until they start doing that. Right now, it's difficult to see a path to the nine or so wins that'll be need to win this division.

They are fortunate the gap isn't larger.

"Somehow, some way, we're not out of it," head coach Arthur Smith said. "We'll focus on that and the things we can control. We have to look at everything and find solutions."

The message was clear heading into their bye week: Take accountability and find solutions. It was spread from the head coach on down, with the Falcons remaining resolute in their belief that they can do better.

There's also an unmistakable frustration present, from the head coach on down, too, stemming from the fact that the Falcons aren't playing to their potential. It can be maddening when it happens over and again, with losses piling up and opportunities dwindling with each passing week.

Getting to nine wins now requires a 5-2 finish. The Falcons must figure some things out and make some real adjustments in order to reach that mark. The issue here is that we've been talking about the explosive plays allowed, the inconsistent quarterback play, the critical mistakes and the in-game opportunities missed for several weeks now and, by and large, there haven't been significant improvements in those regards.

There's an opportunity to use this bye for intense reflection, using time to take emotion out of this losing streak and be both brutally honest and objective about what's going wrong.

"Everyone needs to look in the mirror and take accountability for your contributions and seriously evaluate what you could've done better to help this team get a win," cornerback A.J. Terrell said. "…We've got to have that 1-0 mindset. We can't look too far ahead. We have to focus on what we can control and do whatever it takes to get back on top."

That's essential coming out of the bye. The Falcons play every team in the NFC South over the next four games. They'll bring a 2-0 division record into that stretch, meaning they can overcome deficits by playing well within a wide-open division. It's tightly packed outside of the struggling Panthers.

The Falcons have a talented defense that has played extremely well at times this season. There's no arguing the fact, either, that the Falcons offense has explosive playmakers and lots of them.

It can be said that this offense doesn't feel explosive right now and it can be said that the defense hasn't been consistent enough. If those things don't change, it will be extremely difficult to do what's required down the stretch.

Smith was clear when asked that there will be no staff adjustments during the bye, though the Falcons have to make a decision about the quarterback position moving forward. That will play a big role in how the season progresses.

Overall, though, the Falcons have to do better with this collection of talent than they have during this losing streak. And they have to do it now.

"We have to make an adjustment," Smith said. "We've got seven games left. We're not out of it. We're going to put everything humanly possible into doing our job better and go win this division. That's all we can control."

View photos of the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals during Week 10.

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