You've probably heard the saying before.
Once is chance, twice is a coincidence and a third time is a pattern.
Well, what is it when it's the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth or in the case of Sunday's loss to the Bucs, a ninth time? That's the number of games the Atlanta Falcons have blown leads this season.
I don't know what you call it – I'm sure there are a lot of different words and ways you could use to describe the team's inability to finish off their opponents – but I do know the end result.
And that is, change.
Change is coming, and it's why the Falcons have already interviewed two men for their general manager vacancy.
Blown leads have crushed this team, dating back to Super Bowl LI. And, not to dwell on the past, but blown leads have gutted this team in 2020 as well.
It's a big reason why the Falcons got off to an 0-5 start, prompting owner Arthur Blank to part ways with general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn in October. Blank said he's tired of losing and has made it clear that he wants a new regime to install a culture of winning.
"I think we need to win, and that's what our fans are counting on, that's what they're signed up for," Blank said.
On Sunday, the Falcons led the Buccaneers by 17 points on two different occasions. Atlanta went up 17-0 right before halftime on Younghoe Koo's 32-yard field goal with 18 seconds left. Then, midway through the third quarter, Atlanta went up 24-7 when Matt Ryan drilled a 7-yard pass to Hayden Hurst in the middle of the end zone.
At that point, the Falcons' win probability was at 95.3 percent.
But, like eight other times this season, including four times when they had at least a 95 percent chance of winning, the Falcons – and their lead – crumbled.
How did it happen, especially after shutting out the Buccaneers for two quarters and holding Tom Brady and Co. to 60 total yards of offense in the first half?
Well, Brady and the Bucs came out and scored on five straight possessions, including four touchdowns.
- Touchdown: 7 plays, 80 yards (17-7, Falcons)
- Touchdown: 8 plays, 75 yards (24-14, Falcons)
- Touchdown: 7 plays, 76 yards (24-21, Falcons)
- Field Goal: 9 plays, 41 yards (24-24, Falcons)
- Touchdown: 4 plays, 78 yards (31-27, Buccaneers)
The Falcons surrendered 31 points over the final 30 minutes and, according to Pro Football Reference, became the third team since 1940 to have multiple games in a season where they led by 17-plus at halftime and lose.
It's tempting to look at some of those games and think the Falcons are closer to being a contender or are better than their 4-10 record would indicate. It's easy to think about the onside kick against the Cowboys or the accidental roll into the end zone against the Lions and think they should have more wins.
That would be a mistake.
There's another old saying: You are what your record says you are.
This is who the Falcons are.
"It's called lack of winning," Blank said of the Falcons' struggles over the few seasons. "So, the problems we have to solve are all of the problems that are ahead of us that keep us from winning."
Who will ultimately solve those problems has yet to be determined, but the consequences and expectations have been made clear.
Change is coming.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers with top photos from Week 15.