Following their 17-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Falcons hold the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after the early Sunday games, according to Tankathon.
For a sizeable portion of the fan base, that is reason to celebrate. For those in the locker room, it's a reminder that they aren't accomplishing their primary goal: Winning.
"Our fan base is very knowledgeable and that's their job to cheer for those types of things, but our job is to go out and win football games," interim head coach Raheem Morris said. "We really love those guys, we really love Atlanta, we love everything we stand for, and when that time comes we'll address those accordingly."
Atlanta has a 4-11 record with one game remaining, but the Falcons might just be the most competitive 4-11 team in league history. Eight of the team's 11 losses have come by a touchdown or fewer, and the Falcons' late-game woes have been well documented throughout the 2020 season.
Look no further than Sunday's loss as an encapsulation of what has been a frustrating year for Atlanta. The Falcons stood toe to toe with the reigning Super Bowl champs and the AFC's top seed in the playoffs, and they slowed down an offense that has been the NFL's best for quite a while.
On top of that, Atlanta had the opportunity to put itself in terrific position to win the game with a late interception by A.J. Terrell, only to have the ball jarred loose by the ground when he landed. Still, the Falcons marched back down the field to set up a game-tying field goal when Younghoe Koo, who had not missed a kick since September, pushed the ball right.
While some may view Sunday as the perfect combination of their rooting interests – a competitive Falcons game that ultimately resulted in better draft positioning – it's yet another frustrating end for a team looking to develop a winning mindset.
"You understand that from the fans' perspective, but our job is to go out there and compete and win," Quarterback Matt Ryan said. "That's what we get paid to do. It's disappointing, you put in all the hard work all week and you go out there and give yourself a chance and you fall a little bit short. It's tough."
There's going to be change coming for the Falcons this offseason, that much is clear. But for those donning the pads and calling the plays, the future isn't the focus.
Interim head coach Raheem Morris has incorporated the mindset that the Falcons seek to go 1-0 each week. They have not been able to accomplish that goal for the last four games, but there is one final game remaining to remedy that problem. A loss in the season finale against the buccaneers would assure the Falcons of a very high draft pick, which has been the focus of some fans for a while now.
The team's focus, however, remains in stark contrast.
"I think it's the last thing in our minds as players and coaches," defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. "We prepare to win week in and week out, day in and day out, and let the timing of that take care of itself. We don't have control of that anyway, so we've got to control what we can control."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs with top photos from Week 16.