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Inside Tori's Notebook: The one word that kept coming up after loss to Washington Commanders

When does "unfortunate" become "unacceptable?" 

Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori 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. Inside Tori's Notebook is sponsored by Microsoft Surface.


READY FOR A BYE WEEK -- Like last week, I'm changing up the notebook a little this week. Perhaps it's because we've now gone 12 straight weeks with football (15 if you include the preseason), and I am looking for something - anything - to break up the humdrum.

But I actually think the change comes from a much deeper place than that.


We all saw what happened on Sunday when the Falcons lost to Washington. We all saw the productive final drive for the Falcons. We all saw the 11th play of that drive, a play that - in the end - sealed a win for the Commanders.

And chances are, we all heard what players and Arthur Smith had to say about that endzone interception after the game. Upon reflection, one word kept coming up over and over again.

Truth be told, it came up in my own notebook at the exact moment Kendall Fuller put his hands under that tipped pass. It's written, right there in the margins.

It's this one word that - for the last 20 hours - has replayed in my head. It's the one word we're going to talk about in this week's notebook. No phrases. No names. Just one word.


"Liked the look, but unfortunately the result is not what I was looking for." -- Arthur Smith

"Unfortunately, we came up short and you live with those decisions." -- Smith

"Unfortunately, (Daron Payne) got his hand up, made a play on it." -- Marcus Mariota

"These games as you're progressing through the season get bigger and bigger and unfortunately, we didn't pull this one out." -- Mariota

"Unfortunately, we just didn't make enough plays." -- Mariota

"We were down there and unfortunately the ball didn't go our way. We have to step up as an offense." -- Jake Matthews

"The teams that make the playoffs and play well are the ones that can find ways to pull out a win at the end and unfortunately we didn't do that today." -- Matthews

"It's unfortunate. Just unfortunate what happened on the play. We fought. We were in a good spot. We came up short." -- Tyler Allgeier

"That's it. How unfortunate." -- Me, in my notebook

Tori McElhaney uses a Microsoft Surface during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, August 27, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

Do I need to continue? Do you want me to? Probably not. You get the picture.

We all have words and phrases that we fall back on. There's repetition in language because there's repetition in the brain. Our mind works in short cuts and pathways that have been forged through consistent use. Those paths in our brains are our go-tos. We don't necessarily have to think to use them. We almost don't even have to allow our mind to wander down those paths. It feels as though it does it on its own.

At every corner and level of the Falcons organization, there was one specific neurological pathway everyone chose, in the moment, to travel down. Me included.

However, as I awoke on Monday morning the word "unfortunate" started slipping away. I began actively choosing a different path. It was one that led me to a very different word.

As I blinked my eyes open, "unfortunate" had become "unacceptable."

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Adetokunbo Ogundeji #92 reacts after running into the punter during the second half against the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field in North Englewood, Maryland on Sunday, November 27, 2022. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

The Falcons have played in 12 games so far this season. Nine of those games have been decided by one score. In many of them, the final possession held the key to a win or loss. The Falcons are 4-5 in those games.

In all of those losses, something "unfortunate" happened: One moment that could be pointed to as the play that altered the outcome.

Mariota's dropped snap on third and one with 1:37 remaining in the Falcons Week 1 loss to the Saints. The Jalen Ramsey endzone interceptions a week later in Los Angeles. The now infamous Grady Jarrett roughing the passer call when he sacked Tom Brady in Week 5. Ta'Quon Graham's fumble recovery and subsequent fumble that gave the ball back to the Chargers for a game-winning field goal three weeks ago. And now, the tipped pass intercepted by the Commanders in the endzone.

All of these moments? They're what many could - and probably did - consider "unfortunate" at the time they happened.

At what point, though, does "unfortunate" become "unacceptable?" At what point is a play deemed a good play by the opposing team vs. a misstep or a miscue by the Falcons? At what point does that become the neurological pathway this team publicly follows?

Is what happened on Sunday unfortunate? Yes. Did the Falcons have every opportunity to win the game? Thus, making a lack of execution within a few different moments in the game unacceptable? Also, yes.

Both can be true, and likely are behind closed doors. But the overwhelming use of the word "unfortunately" paints a different public image, one that feels accepting when it's likely not.

In his postgame press conference, Allgeier said something I found very profound for a rookie running back. He said - in essence - that good teams are competitive in games, but great teams finish them.

I'd take it a step further: Good teams have unfortunate things happen to them. Great teams deem those unfortunate circumstances unacceptable. So much so that they don't become reoccurring in theme.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Washington Commanders during Week 12.


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