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Inside Tori's Notebook: Lacking answers with the bye week looming

The Falcons lost to a 1-8 Arizona Cardinals to cap off a slide that involved losing four of their last five games. 

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.


IN NEED OF THE BYE -- Reassess. Reevaluate. Regroup.

These are the words Arthur Smith used after the Falcons 25-23 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday. He used them in the context of establishing a baseline for what the Falcons plan to do during their upcoming bye week.

This most recent loss for the Falcons was another bitter moment. This taste has been quite constant in the last month, as the Falcons have lost four of their last five games versus teams who -- on paper -- should've been beatable. Between the Commanders, Texans, Titans, Vikings and Cardinals, this was a slate of games where many thought the Falcons could make a run of wins. That was before the season started, though.

Things are different now.

And that brings us to something I wrote down as the loss' final seconds ticked down on Sunday. As Matt Prater went out for the game-winning kick, I wrote a single sentence in my notebook. It's one that I thought about you, dear reader, when I wrote it.

"I wish I had the answers."

I can't tell you why an offense that was advertised as fun, explosive and exciting in the preseason has been relegated to "constipated" and "anemic," which were two words that kept popping up in my X (formerly Twitter) mentions during the third quarter of Sunday's game. It was a third quarter that saw the Falcons post minus-2 total net yards on four possessions.

I can't tell you why this defense has been so dang good in the first seven of the Falcons' 10 games before the bye. They were a top-5 defense for many weeks. Now, they have struggled to consistently stop the long ball. They've given up too many explosive plays for their liking, and it has becoming something opposing offenses are attacking and taking advantage of in the big moments.

I don't know how to fix the Falcons' issues. And, just because my postgame story was about the quarterback conversation doesn't mean I think things will magically change for the Falcons with a concrete answer of who starts against the Saints in two weeks.

The conversation in Atlanta has evolved beyond the quarterback situation. It's bigger than Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke, because a lot of the issues this offense is facing remains with either of them in the pocket.

I don't have an answer for you but I wish I did. I wish I could tell you that if X, Y or Z changed, that things would be different. But I can't do that. That's above my pay grade. I am here to inform you of what was said, what was done and what could be moving forward.

The problem is that the latter has become difficult to signify. Not because I can't see the issues the Falcons have, but because I don't know where the Falcons start to begin fixing them. They spent millions of dollars pumping significance into their defense this offseason. They've spent their last three first-round picks on talented offensive weapons. They fought out of salary cap hell to get to … this? A 4-and-6 record at the bye? Surely, all of that work shouldn't come to this.

So, the challenge is to rectify the situation. The Falcons have seven games to do so. They say they are going to reassess, reevaluate and regroup during the bye. Let's see if they can, because as dire as it seems, hope isn't fully lost. Because of where things stand in the division, the Falcons still have a chance to dig themselves out of the hole they've put themselves in.

Not if things don't change, though.

The last month-and-a-half of games isn't indicative of what this team can be, what it was advertised to be.

They have a chance to fix it.

Take a monochrome look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals during Week 10.

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