Despite another blown lead, the Falcons showed some bright spots within the darkness as they near the end of a difficult 2020 season.
Atlanta certainly hasn’t been perfect under interim coach Raheem Morris’ tutelage, but has shown it can be good in stretches. Quarterback Matt Ryan perhaps softened concerns surrounding his play for at least a week after his performance, going 34-of-49 for 356 yards and three touchdowns.
The Falcons also had three touchdowns in the red zone despite having the league's second-worst red zone scoring offense coming in. It was a stark turnaround to the Falcons’ poor showing last week against the Chargers.
But as the Falcons slowed down offensively in the second half, their defense had trouble staying off the field, which helped the Buccaneers back into the game. That has been the recipe for the eventual Falcons breakdown the past few weeks, give or take some other herbs and spices like poor tackling and penalties.
While there were good signs, there’s no ignoring the Falcons adding another chapter to the blown lead textbook, which has seemingly added more pages this season than could reasonably keep a single book bound together.
Troubling trend: The obvious thing here, is that the Falcons can’t hold a lead. The Falcons had a 17-0 lead at halftime, which isn’t too surprising given how the Buccaneers have struggled in first quarters all season. It’s also no secret that any lead the Falcons have held since February 5, 2017, is met with jokes and memes. Of all the things the Falcons have improved upon under Morris, this is still a challenge. If you look at their history, the first coach to erase that problem will be the first.
QB breakdown: Ryan’s first half was incredible. He completed 23-of-31 passes for 235 yards, and two touchdowns (for comparison, he was 21-for-32 for 224 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions last week). Ryan was particularly great on play action, going 7-of-8 for 121 yards and a touchdown.
However, that wasn’t the story in the second half, as the Falcons had one touchdown drive. The Bucs scored 21 points in the third quarter alone, and 10 in the fourth to put the Falcons away.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: Calvin Ridley is the first Falcon not named Julio Jones to have 150 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown since Roddy White in 2012. He finished the game with 10 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown.
Silver lining: The Falcons improved their draft stock. That’s not saying the Falcons are trying to lose games, it’s quite obvious they aren’t. Morris has put his best effort forward given the group of guys he has and the circumstances, and done a great job.
But it became clear early this season that the Falcons weren’t going to be fixed, and with the end of the season near and hires to be made at head coach and general manager, the next regime benefits from today’s loss. Winning is more fun, but it hasn’t been much of a reality for Atlanta.