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Bair: What's preventing Falcons from creating distance between them and .500

Falcons sit at 4-4 after 28-23 loss to Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jessie Bates III stood at his locker, clearly frustrated by a game that got away. The Falcons safety was asked how Sunday's 28-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans could've gone different.

His answer was simple and direct.

"Don't give up explosives for touchdowns," Bates said.

He gave that answer over and again, emphasizing that point above all others.

It's a bit more nuanced than that, but Bates is a defensive back and a team captain who focuses on what he can control.

The four explosive passes that led to scores were a significant issue in how this game played out. Three of the four went for 30-plus yards and the another went for 16. 

We've seen this defense play well enough to win a lot of games. We've seen the offense show real potential. We've also seen the inconsistency that'll lead to the .500 record with the Falcons heading into the halfway point in the season.

We're eight games into this thing and the Falcons sit at 4-4. It's not early anymore. We've learned a ton about this team and what they can do.

The overarching sentiment is this: They cannot make the volume of critical mistakes they're making and thrive. You've heard that phrase in this column before, previously in reference to Desmond Ridder turnovers.

This time it's a lost fumble by Ridder, some poor play in the punt-return game and those explosive plays Bates was talking about. Can't expect to win tons of games with that much working against you.

Which, again, goes back to the inconsistency. This imbalance of good and bad leads you to .500.

The Falcons both understand that you are what you're record says you are and that they're better than what they showed at Nissan Stadium.

They're at 4-4 right now but will certainly be maddened if their record stays that way throughout the season's second half. While there's no juggernaut in the NFC South and the division should be hotly contested, I doubt we'll see a repeat of last year where 8-9 wins it.

It might even take double-digit wins to secure the crown and the automatic playoff berth that comes with it. The only way the Falcons get there is by stacking wins.

Outside the first two games this season, they haven't won consecutive games. That'll leave you around .500. Catching a theme here?

While quarterback play will dominate the dialogue surrounding this team heading into a Week 9 home game against Minnesota, there will be a different dialogue in the locker room.

They'll home in on fixing problems, adjusting for injury – and there were a lot of them, including Grady Jarrett and Drake London – and finding the level of play required to buck this current trend.

"It's every play. You can't take a single one off," safety Richie Grant said. "You're going to get their best each Sunday. You have to be locked in and work through play by play and be attuned with what you're trying to do."

Defensive end Calais Campbell has been on teams good at stacking wins. The key to that endeavor isn't overly complex.

"The biggest thing is that we have to not beat ourselves and play at the highest level," the 16-season veteran said. "I mean, we know what to do. We have to settle down and play our game. I have faith in my guys – I hope they have faith in me – that we'll figure it out."

While they aren't in a major rush, margin for error dips when winnable games get dropped. At some point, the Falcons have to go on a run and create distance between the .500 mark that keeps drawing them back in.

Campbell wanted to emphasize that the Falcons don't need to learn how to operate at a high level. They do need to execute that way and avoid the major pratfalls that'll get you beat.

Grant agreed.

"We're hungry," Grant said. "We know what type of team we are. It's hard to take a loss like this. We know who we are. We know that we have to go execute."

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans during Week 8.

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