ATLANTA – We've officially hit the later stages of this season, where the Falcons have to surge if they're going to seriously contend for a playoff spot.
That had to start on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a squad with some talent but a record suggesting some struggles.
This was an opportunity to get a win and some momentum to close out the year.
The Falcons did not take advantage of the opportunity on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They left Week 13 with a 19-16 loss to Pittsburgh, the last game before their bye week.
Let's dive deeper into what stood out in this contest:
Late surge not enough
The Falcons were down multiple scores in the third quarter of a game they desperately needed, seeming out of sorts on both sides of the football.
Then they snapped back into action. They scored a touchdown on an eight-play, run-focused drive (more on that later), forced a three-and-out and then when on a long, productive drive ultimately hindered by penalty that ended with a field goal that cut the deficit to three points.
The Steelers got the ball back with 5 minutes, 27 seconds remaining and were able to push the ball down the field, into field goal range. The Steelers ultimately chose to punt, and pinned the Falcons back at their own 2-yard line with 42 seconds remaining.
Mariota threw an interception on the next play from scrimmage sealing a dramatic defeat for the second straight week.
Falcons flip the script, then get back to it
This year's offense has been run heavy. The Falcons are really good at moving the ball on the ground, thanks to scheme and talent, and have committed to grinding out drives and points running the ball.
The passing game is mostly an accent piece, which needs to be efficient when called upon. On Sunday, the Falcons passed more than they ran during the first half and into the second, without much success. Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed a decent percentage but missed some throws and the offense struggled to find a rhythm.
Then down 13 points later in third quarter, the Falcons got back to what they're good at. They ran seven straight times on an eight-play drive that resulted in both their first red-zone trip and their first touchdown. That drive got the Falcons back in it, running well despite facing one of the league's top rushing defenses.
Drake London gets involved
The Falcons are typically a run-heavy squad but came out and threw a lot more in Sunday's first half. Rookie receiver Drake London was a frequent target in this one, which a greater share than he typically gets.
The No. 8 overall pick had tons of targets and made the most those within his catch radius. London finished with xx catches for xx yards on xx throws his way -- both were career highs -- while steadily creating separation. This marks the first time he has exceeded 50 receiving yards since Week 3.
That was an important development in the second game without Kyle Pitts, who has been ruled out the rest of this season after having knee surgery. London's often the primary receiver but has coverage dictate the ball goes elsewhere.
The ball steadily came to him, and he was able to take advantage of opportunities. He'll have to keep doing that if the Falcons are able to steadily produce wins.
Call for questions
Let's fill the mailbag up with questions after Sunday's result. Submit them right here for inclusion in Monday's Bair Mail.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Pittsburgh Steelers during Week 13.