CINCINNATI -- The first words out of Arthur Smith's mouth after the Falcons 35-17 loss to the Bengals were quite simple in concept.
"We're not going to make excuses," the head coach said.
Even with an excuse on hand or not, the reason the Falcons lost on Sunday was quite simple in concept, too. The Falcons defense was outmatched by the Bengals, particularly the Atlanta secondary against the Cincinnati receiving trio of Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
Joe Burrow was well on track to break a few passing records against the Falcons on Sunday. With a 481 passing yard day, he moved into third place in Bengals history for most passing yards in a single game.
Burrow doesn't do this without his receivers, though, and they were something to watch on Sunday.
Boyd finished the game with a touchdown and 155 receiving yards on eight catches. Chase had 130 yards on eight catches. Two of those catches were touchdowns. Higgins was seven yards away from breaking 100 receiving yards, too.
The Falcons - and Smith would be the first to say publicly that this isn't an excuse - were without their top cornerbacks in Casey Hayward and A.J. Terrell in Cincinnati. Hayward was placed on injured reserve at the beginning of the week, and Terrell left Sunday's game early with a hamstring injury. He was almost immediately ruled out after it happened.
With Dee Alford also out with a hamstring injury on Sunday, and Jaylinn Hawkins leaving the game to be evaluated for a head injury, the Bengals offense took advantage of a beat up Falcons secondary. In all, the Falcons defense gave up 537 total yards to Cincinnati.
They just didn't have an answer. The offense - for it's part - wasn't much help either, finishing the day going 4-of-10 on third down, and only accumulating 214 yards of total offense (75 of those yards coming on one single play).
After the game, players like Darren Hall and Mykal Walker were honest that you do miss the presence of Hayward and Terrell, particularly against a receiving trio as productive as that of the Bengals.
"We feel those guys. You know what I'm saying? A.J. and Casey, those are our star guys out there," Walker said. But still, that's not an excuse and Walker said as much. There are a lot of ways the Falcons could have gotten out of the situation they found themselves in.
No. 1? Walker said they have to tackle better as a unit. Although it's true that not every 20-plus-yard explosive play of the Bengals on Sunday involved a missed tackle, there were enough for Walker and other defenders to take notice
"Tackling with leverage," Richie Grant said of what this team needs to fix and fix quickly. "It sounds so basic, but it really is the fundamentals."
No. 2? The Falcons have to tighten up in zone.
"We threw a lot of different looks at (Burrow) but he knew where to go," Smith said postgame. "He had time, and there were times when we got to him and even when they were off track he came back with some seconds to get back on track. It hurt us, because he found soft spots in the zone."
In the end, the Falcons were out-gunned, out-manned, out-numbered and out-planned. Unlike the ragtag group of founding fathers in Hamilton, this didn't take a turn to victory with a surprise attack. The Bengals simply did what they planned to do, with Hall saying Cincinnati played the exact game they wanted to.
"They like to make big plays. That's their offense," Hall said. "It was a good challenge for us and we see where we could (improve). We know what our mistakes were."
"They were moving the ball, and our job was to stop them," Grant concluded, "and we didn't do that."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals during Week 7.