WATCH: 10 Takeaways From Atlanta Falcons Loss to Arizona Cardinals
The Atlanta Falcons lost their fourth consecutive game in Week 6 with a 34-33 gut-wrenching defeat against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. There's still a lot of football left, but the loss makes the possibility of a 2019 playoff berth for Atlanta very improbable.
Let's dive into our Top 10 takeaways from the Falcons' latest loss:
1. First, it would be very easy to blame this defeat on kicker Matt Bryant, who missed an extra point in the final two minutes of regulation. The missed PAT would have tied the game and likely sent the contest into overtime. The way Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense was clicking in the fourth quarter, Atlanta had a great chance of pulling out the comeback in the extra session.
Bryant's miss robbed Ryan of that opportunity, but Falcons fans should try to avoid making Bryant this game's scapegoat. Games don't come down to one play. The Falcons could have avoided the game coming down to an extra point had they played better in the first half.
The 44-year-old kicker has been so clutch for the Falcons over his 19-year career. He entered Sunday having hit more than 98 percent of his extra points since 2015.
Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, Bryant made his at the absolutely wrong time.
2. After falling into another 17-point hole, the Falcons responded in the final 25 minutes of the game. That's great to see. Contrary to popular belief, this team hasn't quit on Dan Quinn.
Defensively, the Falcons played their best two quarters since Week 2 in the second half Sunday. They held Arizona to 147 yards and forced two three-and-outs after halftime. Defensive backs Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield made some key plays, which was terrific to see with Keanu Neal and Desmond Trufant out with injuries Sunday.
The Falcons run defense was better against the Cardinals too. De'Vondre Campbell was very visible, leading the team with nine total tackles. Atlanta held Arizona to just 3.5 yards per carry.
3. That was the good, but there was plenty of bad from the Falcons defense as well. Atlanta allowed Kyler Murray to throw for 340 yards and average 9.2 yards per attempt. Most of that came in the first half, but that overall total is still too much production to yield against a rookie quarterback.
And while the Falcons held David Johnson in check, Atlanta gave up 6.8 yards per carry to Chase Edmonds, who clearly needs more touches in that offense. Edmonds posted 67 yards and a touchdown on just seven touches.
4. The Falcons defense also produced zero sacks and no takeaways again in the loss. Murray is an athletic and elusive quarterback, but he came into Week 6 with 21 sacks taken, which was among the league leaders. Atlanta produced a few pressures that flushed Murray from the pocket, but to sack Murray, defenses need multiple defenders to converge on the pocket at the same time. The Falcons weren't able to do that.
5. Giving up a lot of yards is one thing, but the Falcons are also a poor situational defense, and that was a problem again Sunday. Atlanta let Arizona score touchdowns on three of four redzone possessions. The Cardinals also went 7-for-13 on third downs.
Arizona scores touchdowns in the red zone at the third-worst rate in the league, so the Falcons giving up three red zone touchdowns to the Cardinals on Sunday was obviously not good. The only red zone stop the Falcons made was when the Cardinals ran out of time at the end of the first half.
Atlanta's third-down defense continues to absolutely abysmal too. Falcons' opponents have converted 56 percent of their third downs this season, including a whopping 61.3 percent on the road. With that in mind, the Falcons third-down defense actually improved against the Cardinals.
6. Matt Ryan deserved better, as he posted an incredible stat line. He threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns with only six incompletions and zero interceptions. Ryan's performance was the 28th time since 1950 that a quarterback recorded a 80 percent completion percentage, more than 300 passing yards, at least four touchdowns and zero picks in a game, but Ryan became the first quarterback to reach those numbers in a losing effort.
Ryan spread the ball around to nine different receivers. Moreover, I liked Dan Quinn's decision to take the ball at the beginning of the game. Ryan and the offense did their part to give the Falcons a better start, scoring a touchdown on the first drive, but the Atlanta defense couldn't hold up their end, and the Cardinals double-dipped, scoring before halftime and on the first possession of the second half.
7. Devonta Freeman gave the Falcons offense balance on Sunday, as he turned in one of his best rushing performances of the year. He registered 118 yards on 22 touches, including 88 rushing yards. Two of Freeman's three receptions went for touchdowns -- I would think Atlanta is going to try and get him even more involved in the passing attack moving forward.
8. The offensive line gave up two sacks, but overall, they played well -- certainly good enough to win. They allowed just one sack and didn't commit a penalty in the second half.
9. The aforementioned Freeman and Julio Jones had strong days, but tight end Austin Hooper was again the Falcons best offensive weapon. The Cardinals came in with the worst defense in the league against tight ends, and the Falcons took advantage of that matchup. Hooper led the team with eight catches and 117 yards with a touchdown.
10. The last takeaway to discuss is the officiating. I could have easily led this video with the three poor calls from Sunday's game, but I don't want the narrative to be that the officials are the main reason why the Falcons lost. Atlanta made plenty of mistakes, especially in the first half, so like Bryant's missed extra point, officials can't ever be the primary reason for a defeat.
Having said that, Arizona had three questionable calls go its way. Had any of them been flipped, the result could have been very different.
First, Oliver forced what appeared to be a fumble after giving up a 58-yard reception to Damiere Byrd, but the officials ruled him down before losing the ball. Quinn challenged the call, but it was overturned.
Secondly, the Falcons were called for fair-catch interference on their last punt of the game, which set up Arizona in Atlanta's territory with the game tied. The Cardinals easily scored a touchdown and made the eventual game-winning extra point.
Thirdly, the officials awarded Murray a generous spot on third-and-5 during the final real play of the game. That call stood in replay as well. Had it been properly overturned, the Cardinals would have been forced to punt with 1:38 remaining.
Again, these calls aren't why the Falcons lost, but if it's also ok to still be seething about the officiating from Sunday's game. Every important call seemed to go against Atlanta.