ATLANTA – Foye Oluokun used three words to describe the Falcons locker room after losing a late lead in Sunday's 34-30 loss to Washington at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Somber. Disdain. Disappointment.
The Yale graduate picked some powerful ones. They may have also characterized you after that heartbreaker, combining sadness and regret with a twinge of anger, maybe even contempt.
That's a feeling that feels all too familiar in these parts. The Falcons have been on the wrong end of these losses a lot lately, especially in recent seasons.
Maybe what happened here against Washington conjured flashbacks of last year's Dallas-Chicago two-step. Maybe Todd Gurley crossed the goal line (again) in your mind when he wasn't supposed to.
Oluokun was around for those disappointments, feeling loss right there with you. That's why the middle linebacker's insight matters here.
The man's a competitor who truly feels the impact of these results. You could see that on the field and during his post-game press conference, where his body language made clear how difficult this loss was to take.
It's also why we must listen when he said that this experience was subtly different.
"In previous years, when we were losing games, there was a 'oh, not this again,'" Oluokun said. "[Against Washington], we were on the offensive. We were trying to make things happen. Unfortunately, it didn't. There was one play where the ball was floating in the air forever. If we just make the plays we're supposed to make, the outcome would've been different."
The outcome could've and should've been different. The Falcons blew a golden opportunity to win a game. That's the most important takeaway from this experience.
Everything else deals in nuance, in perspective. That's where we're headed next.
Let's make a few things crystal clear first.
I'm not here telling you how to feel. I'm not here to say you're wrong for linking this loss to the not-so-distant past.
I would caution against going all Chicken Little here. The sky is not falling. A very hard, heavy, pointy acorn, however, fell on the Falcons' head. And it undoubtedly hurt.
It is not cause for pure panic, just as last week's comeback win over the New York Giants wasn't reason to bust out ticker tape and throw a parade.
We need a bigger body of work before saying anything definitive about the 2021 Falcons. There's so much new here, so many variables at play that weren't here last season or the year before that we can't jump to conclusions about this season's proximity to the past. It's understandably hard to resist after what we saw on Sunday.
Fight it. For now, at least.
Judgement day will come down the line, and there will be nothing wrong with a grade ultimately given, whether it's an A or a flat F, because it will be supported by a mountain of evidence.
We don't have that yet. We have disjointed results to analyze over the last two weeks, which tell two different stories. Which event will be an aberration? Will one constitute the start of a trend? Or will inconsistency reign?
This isn't a volcanic take, quite the opposite actually, to suggest we need time before assuming anything about this team.
Quarterback Matt Ryan seems ready to fight against a negative slide, hellbent on preventing a dissent into another losing streak.
"Having been around long enough, you want to get in front of things," Ryan said. "You want to be proactive as opposed to reactive. I think that, from a leadership position as a veteran in the locker room, I want to be proactive over reactive and let those guys know we have to fix what we can and be better next week. We have 13 games left. A lot can happen during that time. I think the effort has been great. The attention to detail is something [where] we can improve."
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
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Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.