1. Coach Smith's Admission:Great leaders are defined best in adversity, such as a last-second defeat that drops your football team to 4-7 on the year. Less than 24 hours after the Falcons fell to the Browns, 26-24, head coach Mike Smith opened his weekly press conference by admitting he would've done some things differently to close out the game. "Before I open it up for questions, I'd like to address the last 55 seconds of the game," Smith said. "After reflecting and analyzing on how that played out, I would've done some things differently, given an opportunity to think about it through the night and doing some analyzing. I didn't do the things that needed to be done to put our guys in the best position to win the game. There were lots of plays in the football game that can affect the outcome and I didn't do my best to help us win yesterday."
2. It's a Team Loss:Within an hour of Smith's Monday presser, Falcons players finished meetings and were made available to the media. The most popular question asked to the guys was how as players do they react to their head coach admitting mistakes. "Everybody makes mistakes," Falcons safety Dwight Lowery said. "Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes, that's why it's a team. It's the ultimate team sport. There is no other sport where there is three phases of the game and they all have to rely on each other. Really there are four phases if you include the coaching staff. It's just all of us learning in the situations that we have to learn from, and thankfully we're still in the situation where we can have an impact this next week and weeks to come."
3. Closing the Deal: The Falcons trailed 23-14 at the start of the fourth quarter after Cleveland opened the second half with 10-straight points. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and the offense drove 80 yards on 14 plays, cutting the Browns lead to two at 23-21 with a one-yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson. Less than nine minutes later, Atlanta took the lead, thanks to an interception by Falcons rookie safety Dezmen Southward, leading to Matt Bryant's 53-yard field goal to move the club ahead, 24-23. Needing one final stop, Atlanta's defense faced a Browns team equipped with three timeouts and 44 seconds on the clock, starting from its own 20-yard line. Cleveland used 39 seconds to cover 61 yards, setting up Billy Cundiff's 37-yard game-winning field goal. "Nothing's ever in-the-bag as you can see and we've got to finish," Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann said. "It comes down to finishing. We didn't get it done and that's very frustrating and we've got to fix it."
The Falcons take on the Browns as they honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces during the annual Salute to Service game. Here are photos from gameday.
4. The Turnover Battle: The turnover-ratio story in Sunday's game was again a key factor, only in the wrong direction. Smith has said winning the turnover battle equates to a victory roughly 80-percent of the time. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the odds didn't work out in Week 12. Atlanta's offense committed two turnovers, an interception and a fumble by Ryan, while the Falcons defense recorded three forced turnovers, including multiple interceptions for the third-straight game. Whether turnovers are forced or committed, it's a team's response to the plays that further impact the game. Following the Falcons' miscues, Atlanta's defense allowed just six points. On the flip side, the Falcons' offense converted Cleveland's miscues into ten points. After reviewing the game film Monday, Falcons guard Justin Blalock said the team missed an opportunity to make the most of the remarkable interception by Desmond Trufant in the fourth quarter. "That's a real chance to change the momentum of the game if you're able to score immediately after a big turnover like that. We left a lot out there, but we also have to give Cleveland its due. They made it tough for us at times, where we weren't able to move the ball consistently like we would've liked to."
5. Righting the Ship: Falcons running back Steven Jackson punched in his fifth-rushing touchdown of the season, the 67th of his career, on a 1-yard run Sunday. Clearly one of the most well-respected players in the locker room, Jackson has already utilized his leadership, offering his teammates wisdom of how to overcome a tough loss and turn the season around. "You can't be dominated by the emotional highs and lows of this game," Jackson said. "We've got to remain even-keeled and do our job."