Things are bad for the Atlanta Falcons at the moment. They have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-3. With a 25-0 victory Thursday, the New England Patriots became the first opponent to shut out the Falcons in Atlanta since 1988.
With two blowout defeats in five days, Falcons coach Arthur Smith had every right to be grumpy. Not that he was cordial after Thursday's loss, but he showed more optimism post-game than he has following any of the team's other home defeats this year.
"We're going to get there. I promise you that," Smith said. "Because we're going to continue to fight, and we're going to get out of this thing."
Smith said he remains confident because his team "has done this before." Presumably, he meant climb out of a two-games-under-.500 hole and get back to the .500 mark. The Falcons started 0-2 and worked their way to 3-3 and then 4-4 records in October and early November.
The first-year head coach is absolutely right, and if that's what he needs to say to convey some type of feeling that the sky isn't falling on his team, then that's what he should do. Smith has clearly elected to build up his players' egos right now rather than stomp on them. That's probably the correct decision based on how low the confidence level likely is with the team at the moment.
His team sounds on-board.
"We're definitely still in the hunt," said cornerback A.J. Terrell, who made a big play against New England that could've helped. (Story here). "Every week, just go out there and come back with a W, and as long as we've got that mindset, for the rest of the season, we still have an opportunity to make the playoffs."
But it's also certainly worth noting that the Falcons climbed out of their 0-2 hole with victories against the two New York teams and the Miami Dolphins. Those teams own a combined record of 8-20.
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Even counting the win against the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons have a .351 strength-of-victory percentage. That's the second-lowest in the NFC among the 15 teams that have a win in the conference.
The schedule does get a little easier, starting with a road matchup against Jacksonville a week from Sunday. But after that, the Falcons face two division foes at home versus Tampa Bay and in Carolina. They also still have road trips to San Francisco and Buffalo along with a home rematch versus New Orleans.
Dissecting the schedule only goes so far, though, because at the end of the day, the Falcons won't beat the lowly Detroit Lions the day after Christmas if they don't reignite the offense.
Getting Cordarrelle Patterson and Calvin Ridley back will help, but the Falcons are struggling up-front and can't generate much on the ground. Matt Ryan has been under constant pressure on drop-backs over the last month, too. (The O-line problem? See story here.)
In fact, those have been problems all season. Even in wins against the Giants, Jets and Dolphins, they weren't "fixed." Ryan and the passing game was good enough to overcome those issues and win.
So, it's worth wondering if an extra three days to prepare for Jacksonville is going to make a difference.
Still, it's better than facing the Jaguars four days after a blowout loss. That length of time was clearly not enough for Smith and the coaching staff to "figure out" how to fix the offense for New England. And now? Coach Smith has a lot of "figuring'' to do.