It's early. Like, before-the-sun early. Too early-to-be-awake early.
Yet here I am at Gate 22 of Buffalo-Niagara International Airport's Gate 22, experiencing the unglamorous side of this sports-writing gig. Late nights, early flights. It's a regular thing.
So here we sit, at 5:24 a.m., -- the alarm went off at 3:45 -- waiting for Monday's first flight back to the ATL. Tori McElhaney also has a laptop open across the aisle, working on the "Inside Tori's Notebook" you’ll find on the site. Videographer/producer/editor Sam Larsen's watching videos to pass the time before we all pass out on the plane.
- Matt Ryan breaks down taunting penalty and overturned touchdown run vs. Buffalo Bills
- 'We had chances': Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst absence felt in loss to Bills
- Missing weapons, shifting priorities after Falcons loss to Buffalo: Inside Tori's Notebook
- A key area the Falcons must improve to reach postseason goals in 2022
I've spent enough time reviewing a 29-15 loss to Buffalo, that I'm ready to discuss it further and dive into your questions about that result, how the Falcons can learn from this campaign and what they could do during a pivotal offseason.
So let's get into all that in this Monday, no sleep edition of Bair Mail, finally posted after I landed, drove to the house and finally hit publish:
Jacob Schonberger from New Haven, Conn.
Hey Scott! I recently saw an article that I found quite intriguing. It talked about the Falcons possibly moving on from Deion Jones this offseason due to his struggles in the new scheme. With Foye Oluokun looking like a stud ILB that will be perennial pro bowl contender for years to come, Mykal Walker showing flashes of greatness, and the draft he seems somewhat replaceable. Does this seem like a possible situation that could take place in the offseason? Do you see possible trade value in Debo this offseason considering demand and cap issues?
Bair: Thanks for the question Jacob. I honestly don't think Deion Jones is going anywhere. There are two reasons why. No. 1: Deion hasn't replicated last year's eye-popping stats, but he remains a quality off-the-ball linebacker who can create havoc. No. 2: Moving him doesn't help the cap situation right away. Taking him off the roster would result in $24 million in dead money, per overthecap.com and wouldn't save a dime in cash. And they just restructured his deal last offseason, pushing some 2021 money to 2022. So, again, he isn't going anywhere. Not like he should go anywhere even if it were easier do so.
It will be interesting to see whether the Falcons can retain impending free agent Foye Oluokun. He's another upper-tier player really coming into his own. That could create a market value the Falcons can't afford to pay. It will be something to monitor this offseason.
I think it would be an ideal situation if the Falcons can keep this pairing, by far the defense's greatest position of strength, together for a longer term.
Nathan Gwaltney from Statesville, N.C.
I am making a statement more than asking a question. The phantom taunting call against Matt Ryan, I always advocate players have to play smart even in an emotional game. Ryan should never have given the refs any opportunity to make that call. But all year long people wanting Atlanta to draft the sexy new running QB, good luck with picking the right one. Most don't make it. Atlanta is 7-9, at best they won yesterday 8-8, either way every bleeding W on that board is a testament to Matt Ryan basically working without much help. Do they have a good run game, pass blocking, notable WR's, a solid D? I love these guys but realistically you can see where they rank in the NFL. Without Ryan Atlanta would probably be 3-13, if that. The man deserves support.
Bair: Don't mind the comments. Sometimes you just gotta vent. Ha. I'm in your camp, Nathan, that Matt Ryan has helped them earn wins they wouldn’t otherwise get. I agree that they should try to build the team around Ryan for 2022 and maybe beyond. That would also help execute a succession plan at quarterback, giving the new young talent the best possible chance to succeed. One issue is the Falcons have needs on offense and defense. Dean Pees' side of the ball needs big-time reinforcements that may require high draft picks to do it.
Bill Morgan from Huntington Beach, Calif.
Who would yuy say is the greatest Atlanta Falcon of all time? I gots to go with #60, Tommy Nobis. Who is your pick?
Bair: Good question, Bills. I'm old school, so my immediate answer is Claude Humphrey. He was an absolute monster. Pro-football-reference.com went back and awarded sacks to those who played before it was an official stat. The man would’ve have 130, including 99.5 as a Falcon. A five-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and an absolute monster.
It could and probably should be argued that somebody more recent will end up No. 1. You could debate between Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Deion Sanders probably gets some consideration, but he was only here five years.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills during Week 17.
Mike S. from Calgary
Scott, one thing I cannot get over is all the chatter about our record in one score games - statistically that is one of the least repeatable things in the NFL, I know Barnwell at ESPN wrote about it... also, how many of those games were one score because we let an inferior team back into a game? With one game left on the schedule, do we classify this season as a success?
Bair: I'm gonna push back a bit here, Mike. The Falcons were 2-8 in one-score games last year. They're 7-2 this season. That's a huge flip, even if they made things closer than it had to be on several occasions. Will they always be 7-2? Probably not. But, Arthur Smith is teaching this team how to win and perform in high-leverage situations. That's an asset.
In terms of this season as a success? That's worth an entire column. Was progress made? Yes. Was there buy-in and a culture shift under Arthur Smith? Yes. There are also areas of deficiency the Falcons never got quite right. It's more gray than black and white and that's okay.
Darrell Poole from Conyers, Ga.
Did Matt Ryan give his self up on the touchdown run or did he dive for goal line??
Bair: He most certainly did not give himself up on that charge for the goal line. The officials also called it by the book, as infuriating as that might be for Falcons fans. And they can't go back and add the late hit either, even though they can negate the touchdown but not a taunting penalty that never would've happened without the play originally being called a score.
May I recommend Tori McElhaney’s story on the matter? She breaks it down so well.
Call for questions
We have another big Bair Mail coming on Wednesday. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in that edition.
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Terrin Waack. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
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.