LANDOVER, MD -- Things had finally - finally - started clicking for the Falcons in the final few minutes of their 19-13 loss to the Washington Commanders on Sunday.
After a very balanced offensive attack in the first two quarters, Atlanta came out of halftime but the game felt different. It felt like it was almost all Washington, all the time... at least until the Falcons final drive of the game.
Up until that final drive, the Falcons offense only accumulated 13 plays. Two three-and-outs sandwiched a seven-play drive that resulted in a 48-yard field goal. Meanwhile, two of the Commanders final drives spanned 13 minutes and 10 points. A key stop defensively, though, brought Atlanta's offense back onto the field with plenty of time on the clock and all three timeouts.
It was at this point that the Falcons offense began moving the chains.
First Marcus Mariota found Parker Hesse for a nine-yard pick up. Then, he handed it off to Cordarrelle Patterson to get the first down. Then, he rockets one to Olamide Zaccheaus for a 44-yard explosive after slipping in the backfield.
After that? Patterson and Allgeier began feeding off each other as the Falcons worked themselves closer and closer to the goal line, down by six with time on their side.
"I think that was probably our best drive," Allgeier said. "We were just feeding off each other. Like, oh it's a good run, (Patterson) starts it off and then I go in, CP goes in, pops a big one."
Mariota said there was something different about the Falcons in that final drive than in the 13 second-half plays before it.
"I think it came down to the moment," Mariota said. "You have to go out there and make a play. I thought our guys did a great job of understanding that this is it and you have to go make a play."
And they did. First with that long completion to Zaccheaus to flip the field. Then, to the running backs and linemen to push the line of scrimmage six plays in a row.
Finally, the Falcons had first and goal with about a minute remaining in the game. Though Mariota was dropped for a loss of two on first down, all was still well. It was just second and goal from the four yard line. It could be worse. So, no. The offense was not without its chances. Arguably three chances to get in the endzone even with the loss of yards on first down.
Those good feelings the drive came to give the Falcons evaporated on the 11th play, though, when Mariota stepped back, saw Patterson at the goal line and threw it his way. At that exact moment, Daron Payne - likely knowing Chris Lindstrom had him well and fully blocked - lifted up his arm in a last-ditch effort, tipping Mariota's pass enough for Kendall Fuller to come down with it in the endzone.
Thus, ending a drive that looked like it could've... maybe should've... possibly would've won the game for the Falcons.
The NFL isn't measured in the could've, should've, would've(s), though. It's measured in the execution of the dids. And in that moment, Washington did what it needed to do to win.
What hurts the Falcons the most, though, is that they really did like the look they had on second down, with Mariota planning to go to Patterson.
"Those are decisions you make, and you gotta live with them," Smith said as the playcaller. "You like the look, but unfortunately, the result is not what you're looking for. Give credit to their defensive line. It's not like they tipped a lot of balls today, and really didn't get a lot of pressure the way our o-line played. They made one more play right at the end."
In layman's terms? "They had a say," Smith said of Washington, "and they made a play."
After the game, Mariota agreed with his head coach, saying the play call was a really good one because, yes, he did have Patterson open.
Allgeier thought the same thing.
"It was a great play," Allgeier said. "They end up tipping the ball and defense make a play. It's unfortunate. Just unfortunate what happened on the play. And we fought. We were in a good spot. We came up short."
The Falcons have played in 12 games so far this season. Looking back, 10 of them have been decided by the final minutes of the game, or the final drives by both teams, if you will.
After this season is over, it's the could've, should've, would've moments of those drives that'll be the hardest to let go of. This loss to Washington is no exception.
The Falcons could've been more productive in the second half. They should've scored in the final minute. Atlanta would've likely won if they did.
It's those thoughts that will linger.
The Falcons take flight to Washington to face the Commanders for Week 12. #RiseUp