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Inside Tori's Notebook: Charting the questions that remain after Falcons flattening loss to Titans

Atlanta sits with a .500 record again. What questions should we be asking about this team? 

Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori McElhaney re-opens her game notebook to look back at her notes, questions and observations from the Falcons most recent game. Tori breaks down her thoughts and gives her analysis on what happened and why it's notable.


SALAR DE UYUNI, Bolivia -- Who has seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi?

I'm sure many of you have. If you have, you'll probably Google search the dateline of this article and know the exact significance of this place. If you haven't, here's the run down: In the final stand of the Resistance in the movie, the rebel group finds itself fighting the First Order on the planet Crait, a planet which featured a white ground that, when disturbed, kicked up a bright red dust. These finals scenes of the movie were filmed on an actual salt flat in Bolivia. Salar De Uyuni is considered by scientists and geologists to be the flattest place on Earth.

Some how, some way, the question: "What's the flattest place on Earth?" made it into my notebook as the first half of the Falcons 28-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Nashville came to an end. The reason for this question is likely because I couldn't get the word, "flat," out of my head. It's a word scribbled larger than any other word, phrase or question in my notebook.

Why? Well it's pretty straight-forward, really. The Falcons came out flat against the Titans Sunday, particularly offensively. Normally, stat lines can't tell you the entire story, but in the first half they could. By halftime, the Falcons were down 14-3. They had 89 total net yards of offense (54 rushing yards, 35 passing yards). They were averaging 3-yards a play. They were 2-of-8 on third down. Six of their last seven drives of the first half started inside their own 20-yard line. Five of those drives notched five plays or less. The sixth was a fumble lost by Desmond Ridder.

By halftime, the Falcons had more possessions (eight) than they had first downs in the half (five). Their first-half possession chart (in order) looked like this: Field goal, punt, punt, punt, fumble lost, punt, punt, end of half.

They were flat. They were in the midst of Salar De Uyuni. They were on the planet Crait, looking for something, anything to disturb the ground enough to kick up the red dust of visible action.

Things changed, though, after halftime, when Taylor Heinicke went in at quarterback for Ridder, who was evaluated for a potential concussion. He was cleared to return to the game after the evaluation.

The Falcons were not flat in the second half. They were kicking up dust, moving the ball down field, getting in the end zone.

Their second half possession chart (in order) looked like this: Field goal, field goal, touchdown, punt, touchdown, turnover on downs.

In the end, they scored 20 points in the second half to try and mount a comeback in Nashville. They had their chances to go and win it, too, getting the ball back prior to the 2-minute warning, down by five. Obviously, they couldn't complete the comeback and earn the win, but it wasn't a flat performance in the second half like it was in the first. You can't overlook the fact that the Falcons needed someone to spark movement. That person ended up being Heinicke, who finished the second half 12-for-21 through the air for 175-yards passing.

This trip to Nashville leaves us with more questions than answers, though.

Not even mentioning the quarterback situation, the Falcons have injuries to be concerned about. Grady Jarrett has torn his ACL and is out for the rest of the season, per a Monday morning report from ESPN's Adam Schefter. Drake London missed majority of the second half of Sunday's game with a groin injury. Though he never went to the locker room, and remained on the sideline for the rest of the game. While London said after the game that he'll be fine, his status will be something to monitor as a new week goes on.

Then, there's the defense. This group has been as stable and consistent for this team as any unit in the league. They're a top-10 defense in many of the recorded statistical categories. However, a thorn in their side that turned into a hinderance Sunday, not just an inconvenience, was giving up explosive plays for touchdowns. How do they not only limit those but make them nonexistent moving forward?

And yes, there are so many questions left unanswered about the quarterback position in Atlanta. There's no denying Heinicke provided a spark for the Falcons in the second half, but head coach Arthur Smith said Ridder was taken out of the game because he was evaluated for a concussion. Ridder was cleared to return, though, but didn't because he said the coaches felt like he "was off." Even when Heinicke was questioned about his status in the quarterback room moving forward, he said point-blank that this team is Ridder's to lead.

So, where does that leave us? With more questions than answers, that's where.

Maybe we're the ones in the salt flat just looking for a disturbance that'll kick up some dust.

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