ATLANTA -- The Falcons were at .500 and in the NFC's playoff picture just five days ago. Their standing has dropped precipitously since then, with consecutive losses to Dallas and New England.
They're at 4-6 overall heading into the weekend and a Week 12 matchup in Jacksonville where they'll need to get back on the winning track.
They fell off of it in Dallas and couldn't get back on it Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, falling 25-0 to the Patriots. The Falcons couldn't sustain much of anything offensively to aid a solid defensive effort.
That, more than anything else, is why the Falcons missed an opportunity to recover from a Cowboys loss where next to nothing went right.
Let's dive into all that with three gut reactions to what we saw from the Falcons on Thursday night.
Offense can't validate solid defensive performance
The Falcons defense held its own against a Patriots defense that had scored at least 24 points in five consecutive games, including 45 in a throttling of Cleveland last week. New England had to earn tough yards, managing but a touchdown and two field goals entering the fourth quarter, which kept the Falcons within striking distance.
The offense was never able to close the gap, struggling mightily to move the ball effectively on the ground or through the air. Quarterback Matt Ryan was pressured all night, and space in the running game never materialized for Mike Davis or practice squad elevation Qadree Ollison. The Patriots have a solid defense but the Falcons couldn't do anything while trying to play without Calvin Ridley, Cordarrelle Patterson (more on him later) and Hayden Hurst.
Ryan threw two interceptions for an offense that has scuffled over its last two games. Then replacement Josh Rosen threw a pick six to punctuate an offensive showing to forget and another lopsided loss
The Falcons defense has struggled at several points this season, never more than in a Week 10 loss in Dallas. They played well against a physical New England rushing attack. It's fair to say they played winning football and set up the Falcons to claim victory with a decent offensive showing that never materialized.
Falcons sure miss Cordarrelle Patterson
Cordarrelle Patterson does so much for the Falcons as a running back, receiver and return man. He has petitioned to play safety as well, with little doubt the supreme athlete could also execute that assignment well.
He adds a unique element that makes the Falcons offense go, with a value crystal clear by his absence. Patterson was inactive Thursday night with an ankle injury and his absence was felt by an offensive unit that couldn't do much of anything while the Patriots built their lead.
Receivers (once again) had trouble getting open. Kyle Pitts was schemed against. The Falcons struggled to run – Patterson's the team's leading rusher as well – and get active in the short passing game.
The Falcons took their Patterson decision right up until the deadline for inactives, following a warm-up session in front of Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot. They ultimately decided to shelve Patterson, who wasn't ready enough for activity.
That left the Falcons short-handed – Calvin Ridley missed his fourth straight game dealing with a personal matter – and missing a game changer on offense. Would the Falcons have won this game with Patterson? Would it have been closer? There's really no telling. But it was evident how much Patterson means to what the Falcons do well. They were certainly worse without him.
Can't convert in crucial moments
The Falcons had some solid opportunities to make a game of it but were turned away time and again by New England's defense. The first came in the second quarter, when Ryan got sacked for a 12-yard loss on a 3rd and 1, had a converted field goal negated by penalty and then missed the next attempt.
The second arrived at the end of the third quarter, when the Falcons couldn't get a yard on consecutive running attempts inside the red zone, forcing a turnover on downs when they simply had to move the chains and eventually score a touchdown. That was a real setback, with the offense unable to capitalize on A.J. Terrell's interception and decently long return.
The Falcons struggled yet again on third down, unable to convert after routinely putting themselves in unmanageable situations on earlier snaps. Despite the offense making some plays late, they didn't do anything to negate the aforementioned missed opportunities as decisive factors.
Call for questions
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