ATLANTA – This is becoming too commonplace.
Four times now, in just eight games, the Falcons have fallen into deficits of 17 or more points before halftime.
It was 24-0 this time around.
Another valiant effort made it a game in the second half, and the Falcons showed they are still fighting for their coach. But, again, it was too much to overcome, and the losing skid now stands at six.
It’s the longest losing skid in the NFC, and they're right behind the Bengals (0-8) and the Dolphins (0-6), who play on Monday night.
And, as we all know, this is a bottom-line business. Teams and coaches are ultimately judged on wins and losses. Despite another loss in what's turning out to be a disappointing season, not everything went wrong for the Falcons.
Let’s get the not-so-good out of the way first.
1. What’s happening in the secondary?
It’s safe to say that the Falcons defense hasn't performed up to anyone’s standards this year, especially Dan Quinn, who took over as defensive coordinator following the 2018 season.
The Falcons entered Sunday’s game 32nd in third-down conversion percentage (55 percent), 31st in points allowed per game (31.9), 28th in pass yards allowed per game (274), 27th in total yards allowed per game (387.7) and 32nd in total sacks (five).
While the Falcons did manage to register a couple of sacks – snapping a five-game skid without tallying at least one – there was either some missed assignments or just general confusion at times in the Falcons secondary.
It was readily apparent on rookie D.K. Metcalf’s second touchdown of the day, where was left uncovered in the back of the end zone for a way-too-easy score. Watch for yourself.
2. Special teams not so special
No one will ever question Matt Bryant’s value to this team over the years – or his ability to deliver in clutch situations. But Bryant has not been money on kicks greater than 50 yards this season.
In the last three seasons combined, Bryant has missed just four field goal attempts greater than 50 yards. Against the Seahawks, Bryant missed two field goal attempts – from 51 and 53 yards away. And this season alone he’s now missed a total of four kicks greater than 50 yards.
Let’s hope it’s just something technical or a rough patch for the man we all know as “Money.”
3. Too many turnovers
You can’t turn the ball over in the NFL (or at any level of football) and expect to win games. And, once again, the Falcons turned the ball over three times – and did not force any – against the Seahawks.
In case you need a refresher, here are all three.
- Mychal Kendricks picked off Schaub on first-and-20 on the Falcons 35-yard line in the second quarter. Eight plays later, the Seahawks scored on a 1-yard run by Chris Carson to go up 17-0.
- With 4 seconds left in the first half, Schaub was sacked and fumbled. Fortunately, it ended the quarter.
- And then there was Devonta Freeman’s costly fumble on the Seahawks’ 8-yard line. Instead of punching it in and possibly making it a one-score game, Freeman’s fumble early in the fourth-quarter was demoralizing. Bobby Wagner recovered and 12 plays later, Jason Myers boots a 54-yard field goal for the Seahawks’ final points of the game.
“That was a huge part of this," Dan Quinn said after the game. "When you turn it over at the 1-yard line and you don’t have the chance to keep answering especially when you’re in a hole, you have zero margin for any error.”
It wasn't all bad, though, against the Seahawks. I thought there were a few positives to come out of this one.
1. Welcome back, Matt Schaub
It had been 1,421 days – Dec. 6, 2015 – since Matt Schaub had last started a game, and the 15-year veteran came to play.
Schaub completed 39 of 52 pass attempts for a whopping 460 yards and a touchdown, making it his fifth-career game with more than 400 yards passing. He did throw an interception and nearly had a second, but it was still a strong effort from the Falcons longtime backup quarterback.
Also notable: Heading into the Seahawks game, Schaub only needed 48 yards to hit 50,000 career passing yards. He’s now at 25,412.
2. Way to protect up front
A big reason why Schaub was able to throw for 460 yards against a decent Seahawks defense was because he wasn’t on his back or under duress a whole lot Sunday. In other words, the offensive line played much better.
While Schaub was sacked twice – once by Jadeveon Clowney and the other was credited to Bobby Wagner – that’s much better than the five sacks the line surrendered a week ago in a 27-point loss to the Rams. The fifth one, remember, resulted in Matt Ryan spraining his ankle and forcing the Falcons starter to miss his first game since 2009.
Don’t get me wrong; the offensive line was far from perfect, especially in the running game. The Falcons could only muster 69 rushing yards on 17 carries.
3. Austin Hooper continues to sparkle
The Falcons appeared to make it a point to get Austin Hooper involved early against the Seahawks and the fourth-year tight end responded with another strong outing, making six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Hooper, who caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Schaub in the fourth quarter to help make it a 10-point game (the two-point conversion attempt later failed), made his biggest catch and run – a 35-yard gain – on the first play of the third quarter.
Hooper, who came into Sunday’s game with 46 catches for 526 yards and four scores, is on pace to have his best season in a Falcons uniform.
The Falcons head into the bye week with lots of questions and only eight games to left to salvage something from this season.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he was “extraordinarily disappointed” afterwards.
I think all of us would echo that sentiment.