Skip to main content

Bair: Falcons show gumption finding a way to get an ugly win, but the result should come with a word of caution

Atlanta moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South with a victory over the Jets and a Saints loss.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Falcons 13-8 victory wasn't pretty. At times, it was hard to watch. There were penalties, subpar offense, miscues and, oh, so many punts.

But, as Falcons play-by-play man Wes Durham mentioned right after Sunday's game, this ain't a beauty contest.

He's right. There are no style points. Just win, baby.

The Falcons were able to get one from the slop, a dreary, rain-soaked affair at MetLife Stadium largely bereft of fireworks and fun.

Not that it matters. The victory was Atlanta's second straight, one that, when combined with New Orleans' loss to Detroit, put the Falcons in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. They're back to .500 at 6-6, with consecutive divisional games versus Tampa Bay and at Carolina coming up.

That provides an opportunity to solidify their standing and create distance within the division. A loss on Sunday would've minimized all that.

"That's the way it goes in this league, where you have to find a way to win when you're in a playoff chase and fighting to win the division," coach Arthur Smith said. "Sometimes it can get ugly, and then it's about how you adjust. At the end of the day, you just find a way to win."

It was an ugly game, but the Falcons deserved the win, largely due to a defense that has taken things to another level. The Jets quarterback situation isn't great, but the Falcons were able to shut down the run and harass whoever was under center at the time.

That, and they were plus-three in the turnover battle, an essential component of games centered on field position. Can't give 'em any freebies and the Falcons didn't.

They played a smart, risk-averse game and trusted defense and special teams to take care of business. While fans would surely like to see a more entertaining brand of football, you have to be able to win in all conditions. There will be games like this each season. Coming out on top of them is key.

"That's especially true this time of year when you're getting down to crunch time," said Storm Norton, who took over at right tackle when Kaleb McGary got hurt. "Winning games like that makes you battle-tested for the adversity that's guaranteed to show up every game. It's all about how you respond to it."

The Falcons responded well in this circumstance and won this game as it played out. They will, however, have to elevate their overall play to beat better teams. The Jets have hit the skids offensively and have struggled to move the ball at all. They're on their fourth quarterback this season, with Trevor Siemian entering for Tim Boyle in the second half.

An offensive game like that might've gotten the Falcons in trouble, maybe spelling disaster in an important contest. They've got to figure out how to get more from the passing game, which hasn't been great for a long time despite high-quality skill players. That's why we've seen more offensive imbalance, with the run game getting more attempts in the last few weeks.

When the run game got (relatively) shut down on Sunday, the offense stalled in an unhealthy way. And while wins don't have to be pretty, the team's offensive play must improve to close out the season with enough wins to claim the division title.

It will likely take three wins over the final five games, which is definitely doable with the NFL's easiest schedule down the stretch. They still have to execute and find a way to end up on top, whether the game goes good, bad or ugly.

"Each of these games is a playoff game for us," edge rusher Bud Dupree said. "We want to be able to continue to roll each week and make sure the arrow is pointing up. You don't want to be one of those teams late in the season with the arrow going down. Ours is going up and we showed that. Now we need to build on that next week with a home game and continue to play good football."

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Jets during Week 13.

Related Content