ATLANTA – There’s no sugarcoating it: The Falcons needed a win and didn’t come close to pulling one off on Sunday.
The reasons why have varied, but the reality is that these 2019 Falcons keep digging themselves into big holes and they’ve got to cut it out.
For the third time in as many losses, the Falcons got off to a slow start – they trailed by 17 at halftime – before falling 24-10 to the Tennessee Titans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. According to ESPN Stats, the Falcons have trailed by more than 14 points at the half in just three games over the previous three seasons combined (2016 to 2018).
Was it a must-win game? No, but it was one that the Falcons had to have and, at least on paper heading into this one, appeared like they should have had.
Now, instead of heading off to Houston with a 2-2 record, the Red and Black are beginning their two-game road trip to Houston and Arizona with a not-so-pretty 1-3 mark.
Is the season a wash? Hardly. We’re only a quarter of the way through the season – there’s 12 games to go – and there’s plenty of football to play, including all six of the NFC South games.
That’s not me trying to spin on things, those are just the facts.
Unfortunately, there’s some more facts – and they’re not great, at least not from the Falcons’ and their fans’ perspective.
As I noted above, the Falcons have fallen into an early hole in all three of their losses this season. The Falcons have now been outscored 71-20 in the first half of all four of their games.
There’s not just one reason for it, either.
In the Week 1 loss to the Vikings, the Falcons turned it over three times and had a punt blocked. Matt Ryan was also sacked four times.
Against the Colts, the Falcons hurt themselves by committing 16 penalties for 128 yards. Even worse, seven of those resulted in first downs for Indy.
In Sunday’s loss, it was something no one expected to be the difference: the Titans passing offense, which entered this one ranked 28th in the league.
The Titans’ most dangerous weapon on offense is running back Derrick Henry. Heading into the showdown with the Falcons, Tennessee’s offense was ranked 27th overall – No. 12 in rushing. Also noteworthy: in his last eight games, Henry has an NFL-best 865 yards and has touchdowns in seven of his last eight games.
So it was clear the Falcons needed to shut down the 6-foot-3, 247-pound bell cow. And the good news is that the Falcons did … for three quarters, at least. Atlanta held Henry to just 43 yards on six carries heading into the fourth quarter.
The problem is that the Falcons dared Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to beat them and all he did was connect on 14 of 19 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, and that was more than enough to secure the win.
Mariota, who has been sacked 17 times season, was not brought down once by the Falcons defense. Mariota also kept his zero-interception streak alive while connecting on touchdown passes of 55, 11 and 23 yards – two to rookie receiver A.J. Brown.
It wasn’t all on the Falcons defense, though.
Ryan was sacked a season-high five times. While the Falcons avoided double-digit penalties for the first time all season, they were still flagged seven times for 50 yards.
And in other usually telling categories, the Falcons ended up outgaining the Titans on offense (422 total yards to 365), having the ball longer (30:41 to 29:19) and even tallying more first downs (24 to 22).
No matter how you slice it, the Falcons are 1-3 and that’s reality.
Following the game, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said that “when you’re sitting at 1-3, you want to make sure you’re finding the answers.”
The Falcons need to find some answers because the questions – and losses – are starting to mount.
Get an inside look at Atlanta Falcons vs. Tennessee Titans with top photos from the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium