DETROIT – The Falcons won their first two games of this regular season but countered praise for their efforts postscript. Positive results are always good, but they knew they could play get a whole lot better.
It's always easier, the old cliché goes, to fix things after a win.
They won't have that luxury this time around. There's also some sense of urgency to getting it right after learning an important lesson in Detroit.
They must get better to deal with some of the NFL's best, especially while playing away from a recently rocking Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That was clear in a 20-6 loss to the Lions at Ford Field, which was loud as heck during Sunday's Week 3 clash.
The Falcons struggled with some of the same issues faced in two straight wins but couldn't overcome them against a talented but banged-up Lions team missing some key components.
They knew they needed to level up heading into Week 3. They also acknowledged that they didn't do that in a big early-season showdown.
The Falcons are always honest after tough losses, bringing objectivity and candor to proceedings while processing fresh disappointment. That's not always easy, but Sunday's postgame press conferences brought up a difficult truth.
"I wouldn't say it's a rude awakening, more so just a test. Obviously, we went out there and failed that test," Quarterback Desmond Ridder said. "We were prepared, but we couldn't get anything going. It wasn't like we were just shocked by what happened. We weren't executing well enough and that's what the end result comes to."
The Falcons struggled offensively, getting off track with negative plays on early downs. That led to some obvious passing situations, which spelled trouble against a talented Lions front. Detroit had seven sacks and generated plenty of pressure with protection an issue (as it was early in Week 1) and Ridder said he should've done a better job getting rid of the ball.
The passing game never found a rhythm, an issue that was magnified by a rare instance where the Falcons struggled to move the ball on the ground.
A steady run game typically keeps the Falcons in manageable situations, with an explosive quality that can take some pressure off the quarterback or assert dominance when other aspects aren't going right. With that, and a negative game script, the team's inability to find a rhythm in the air was an issue in this one.
All that led to lackluster offensive production, to the tune of 2.8 yards per play.
So was a lack of steadiness in the pass rush. When the Falcons were able to affect Lions quarterback Jared Goff, he struggled to consistently move the ball down the field. When Detroit's pocket was clean, Goff took yards in chunks.
There was one universal factor, Ridder and head coach Arthur Smith noted, that had an impact on this one.
The Falcons haven't been truly steady in any phase through three weeks, especially in the passing game and pass defense. One particularly notable trend: they haven't performed well early on, but have found ways to turn it on near the halftime break and at the end of games. They overcame such issues in the first two outings and were able to pull out wins. In Week 3, it got them in trouble; they couldn't escape.
"You're looking for that consistency coming out every week," Smith said. "Give Detroit credit. It's on all of us, and it starts with me. Thankfully it only counts as one game. We've got to get back to work tomorrow."
No game is perfect, but the Falcons must be better more often against tough competition. They've got another quality team up next on the schedule, with Jacksonville set to meet them in London. If they can't remedy these issues we're discussing, the Falcons could very well come back across the Atlantic a .500 team.
The Jaguars are good. The Falcons must improve to meet that challenge.
"Thankfully we're 2-1," Smith said. "We've got to handle that environment better. We'll be objective when look at the tape and fix things as move forward. Clearly it wasn't good enough today."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions during Week 3.