It wasn’t pretty, but pretty doesn’t always win.
The Atlanta Falcons know that better than anyone. No team has ever looked better in consecutive losses than they did against the New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals, scoring 36+ in each game without turning the ball over and somehow still coming away empty-handed.
This afternoon against the Bucs, the Falcons scored thirty-four points, didn’t turn the ball over, led 21-6 at one point, and somehow still almost blew it.
For the fifth time in six games for the Atlanta Falcons, it came down to the final play, because of course it did. If DeSean Jackson catches that lateral with eight yards of open space between him and the end zone, the Falcons fall to 1-5.
Instead, they survived, holding on to complete a 34-29 victory – maybe because they were the better team, or maybe because they had to win to stay alive.
Matt Ryan was masterful yet again, only missing ten out of forty-one attempts while slinging three touchdowns and 354 yards. Julio Jones and Austin Hooper combined for nineteen catches, 224 yards and a touchdown. If you play fantasy football, you can probably guess who didn’t score the touchdown.
Defensively, the Falcons managed to force two interceptions from Jameis Winston, though they were also carved up for 512 total yards. Winston threw for 395 of those yards along with four touchdowns in his first start of the season, continuing his history of statistical success against Atlanta’s defense.
Speaking of Atlanta’s defense, someone who hasn’t managed to conjure up much success on the stat sheet is Vic Beasley, who couldn’t even muster a single tackle. Beasley, the NFL’s sack leader in 2016, has been largely disappointing since his return to his natural defensive end position, and today’s game may have been the worst of his career.
Though the Falcons defensive line tallied two sacks on the day, it’s disheartening to see a total lack of progress from the only portion of the defense not ravaged by injury. It’s entirely possible that the Falcons, who may end up with a top-ten pick in next year’s draft, select an edge rusher in the first round for the third time in five years.
This year’s first-rounder, Calvin Ridley, left in the first half with an ankle injury, though early reports indicate that the injury isn’t serious and the rookie could be back next week for Monday night’s game against the New York Giants. Fellow wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who scored a thirty-five yard touchdown in the first quarter, also exited the game with a hip injury. His status is still unconfirmed.
Injuries have been the story of the season for the Falcons, and there’s no telling what this team’s record might be if not for injuries to Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Deion Jones. Instead, at 2-4 and coming off of their second divisional victory, the Falcons head into a very winnable home game against a reeling, yet dangerous Giants squad.
What could possibly go wrong?