If Falcons fans were having flashbacks to 2019 or 2018 during Sunday's 15-point loss to the Saints, it's understandable.
I mean, I was having them at least.
That's because the ongoing storyline for the last two years has been the porous offensive line and the Falcons inability to protect Matt Ryan. He had been sacked 90 times coming into 2020.
Against the Saints on Sunday, Ryan was dropped eight times. And six of them were back-breakers coming on third down. The last time Ryan was sacked that many times was, well, last year in a 26-18 loss to the Saints on Thanksgiving Day. The Saints got him nine times that night.
Heading into Sunday's game, Ryan had been sacked a total of 19 times, or an average of about two sacks a game. Frankly, that's a significant improvement and it's been one of the brighter spots during what's turning out to be another down year for the Falcons. And to be totally fair, all eight of those sacks aren't on just the offensive line. The Falcons' receivers, who struggled to get separation, and Ryan, who held the ball too long at times, should shoulder some of the blame.
But the Saints defensive front has proven to be a litmus test the past three seasons, and the Falcons offensive line did not pass that test Sunday. It was also one of the rougher days at the office for Ryan, who was held without a touchdown pass in a game for the first time since 2015.
With the loss, the Falcons' overall record falls to 3-7, and for anyone still clinging to their fast-fading playoff hopes, keep in mind that all seven of those losses have come to NFC opponents. So even if they were to make a shocking push and reel off six straight wins, those losses will likely come back to haunt them when it comes to tie-breaker scenarios.
While we're at it, let's put the kibosh on any more playoff talk.
As good as that 3-1 mark felt since interim coach Raheem Morris took over, we were all reminded on Sunday that the Falcons have a way to go before they can once again be considered perennial playoff contenders.
And as with all good football teams, it begins and ends in the trenches. The Saints provided a harsh reminder to the Falcons and their fans.
Yes, it was a one-point game at halftime. And, yes, the Falcons failed to capitalize on some early opportunities as Younghoe Koo's field goals accounted for all nine of Atlanta's first-half (and only) points.
Then the second half happened.
The Falcons couldn't protect Ryan. They couldn't move the football, and they could barely slow down Taysom Hill, who was making his first-ever start.
There was a lot of talk this week, too, about who would start behind center for the Saints with Drew Brees injured. In the end, it didn't really matter, and that's not to take anything away from Hill's impressive performance, either. In hindsight, maybe there should have been more talk about Cam Jordan, who sacked Ryan three times Sunday.
When you can't block, you can't win in this league.
Or any league, for that matter.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints with top photos from Week 11