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Inside Tori's Notebook: Falcons in need of 'getting back to the basics' after loss to Minnesota

This week's notebook highlights the instances where the Falcons were missing the fundamentals. 

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.


EN ROUTE TO THE BASICS -- Just out of complete and utter curiosity after the Falcons' 31-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, I Googled the phrase: "What are the fundamentals of American football?" I didn't ask Google this question because I personally needed to know, though I am sure there are a few of you out there who think my female brain can't possibly comprehend the intricacies of the game of football since I've never played said game. If that's you, you're in luck! I finally figured it out with a Google search. Can you believe it?

(Note: I hope you read 90% of this lede in complete and utter sarcasm. If you didn't, I'm sorry the joke flew over your head).

Google -- in less than a second no less, thanks to new WiFi -- pulled up thousands of articles explaining the basics of football. One in particular was an article from Nike titled, "American Football 101: How to Play the Game."

Here's what the article said the objective of the game of football is:

"Players score points in football by getting the ball across the goal line into the end zone, either by throwing and catching the ball, running it in or kicking it through the field goal posts for a field goal. A standard football field is 120 yards long, rectangular in shape, and can be made of grass or turf. The field of play is a little more than 50 yards wide and exactly 100 yards long, with two 10-yard end zones on either end. These end zones are the scoring areas on the field — each team attempts to score by carrying the ball into the end zone (either by running or catching)."

And later...

"The goal of the defense is to stop the offense from getting 10 yards in four downs by tackling ball carriers, breaking up passes, or intercepting passes."

When you watch football with your young kids on the weekend, perhaps this is the cadence you follow. Maybe you tell them the basic fundamentals of football include: passing, catching, running, blocking, tackling and -- of course -- scoring. The six pillars of football.

In the second half of Sunday's loss, as Vikings quarterback Josh Dobbs leaked out of the pocket, three Falcons defenders missed him as he streaked toward the end zone. It was an 18-yard touchdown run, only the second rushing touchdown this Falcons unit has given up all year. It was in this moment when I wrote in my notebook just one word: "basics."

Sunday saw Dobbs scramble for 67 yards, according to Next Gen Stats. However, when you look at his total rushing yards on the day, you see Dobbs ran for 66 yards. That discrepancy is because Dobbs took a knee to take the game into halftime, losing a yard on his total. This doesn't diminish the fact Dobbs picked up 67 yards scrambling after the pocket collapsed around him.

After the game, that fact is what prompted Falcons defensive lineman Calais Campbell to bring this topic full circle.

"We have to figure out a way to get back to the basics," Campbell said. "At the end of the day, tackling is a basic football thing that you learn when you first start playing football. At this point in time, it's about getting back to the basics. Get back to playing sound football."

However, this loss isn't just on the defense, even though that's what we've been talking about for the last few graphs. No, the offense played a major role in this loss, too.

One of the fundamental pillars of football we discussed in the lede has to do with crossing the goal line. Scoring, if you will.

An interesting little factoid about the first half of the game is that the 11 points Atlanta scored via three Younghoe Koo field goals and a Campbell safety? Yeah, those accumulated to be the highest scoring first half of the Falcons' season to date. By halftime, they hadn't busted into the end zone, though.

That's why the word, "basics," is actually written in my notebook twice.

The first time it shows up is in the second quarter when the Falcons find themselves on the Minnesota 1-yard line. After a strip sack by Arnold Ebiketie is returned to the 1-yard line by Lorenzo Carter, the offense comes back out to try to punch it in. A false start and three plays later, they're sending Koo out for his third field goal of the half.

For every good thing the Falcons do, it often feels like they counter it with something not-so-good. And that statement (that, yes, shows up in the 'ole notebook, too) is the basics of what head coach Arthur Smith said later when asked what it'll take for the Falcons to get back in the win column.

"We have to play in sync. That's the thing," Smith said. "You have your opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. The defense made some plays. We got some turnovers, and we had gotten held to three. So, then you get in a rhythm, and unfortunately, the turnovers, and they extended plays. Give Dobbs credit. He made some big-time plays with his feet.

"So, we just never played in sync, and you get the lead. Obviously, we didn't get it done. Yeah, that would be the biggest thing is us playing in sync. There have been some times it's been good in one phase, and we obviously need to do that to get back in the win column."

It all goes back to the basics. There are things about this game that continue to evolve and change as years go by and as athletes get bigger, faster and stronger, but the fundamentals -- the basics -- will always remain the same. At the end of the day, the goal of football is for the offense to get the ball in the end zone (by any means necessary within reason and safety) and for the defense to stop its counterpart (by any means necessary within reason and safety).

The game isn't rocket science. Kids of 7 years old can play it every fall.

The game is strategic, though. Sometimes, the best strategy is simple in nature. Sometimes, it's just doing the basics right.

"We didn't play well enough to win," Campbell said. "There were moments of brilliance. It's OK, we're doing some good stuff, but it's (gotta be) 60 minutes. We have to lock in and do our job for 60 minutes, making sure we handle the fundamentals."

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings during Week 9.

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