Falcons’ return home spoiled by Browns in 26-24 defeat


Despite the loss, the Falcons are miraculously still in first place in the NFC South. (Brynn Anderson)

Despite the loss, the Falcons are miraculously still in first place in the NFC South. (Brynn Anderson)

I took more time than usual to put this recap together because I couldn’t figure out what to say about this Atlanta Falcons team.

And it’s not as if there’s a shortage of things to say. Any unflattering adjective fits the bill.

This team manages to find ways to weasel itself out of wins. It’s as if head coach Mike Smith thinks, “You know, we’re in great position to win this game. Let me do something to change that.”

On Sunday, the Falcons dropped to 4-7 after losing 26-24 to the Cleveland Browns on a last-second 37-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff. After the Falcons took a 24-23 lead, Brian Hoyer had 44 seconds to drive the Browns into field goal range, and he was able to do so with ease. Also noteworthy: Cleveland had all three of their timeouts.

For whatever reason, Smith thought it would be a good idea to use a timeout on what should’ve been Atlanta’s game-winning drive.

Here’s the reasoning Smith gave for using the timeout: “We wanted to get a first down, and we felt like we had a play. That’s why we called the timeout. We came over and used it. [The Browns] would’ve used the timeout probably if we hadn’t.”

My heavens. Where do we start? Of course you want the opposing team to use a timeout – you don’t want to ensure they have as many timeouts and as much time on the clock as possible. You let the clock run, and if they use a timeout, you let them use it.

To be fair to Smith, he did come around and conceded he made a mistake. Unfortunately, it would’ve been better had he not made the mistake to begin with.

So with the clocked stopped at 55 seconds, Atlanta had just two yards to go to convert a third down.

And of all plays to run, the Falcons opted for a deep shot to Devin Hester that fell incomplete, stopping the clock again at 49 seconds.

At the very least, the Browns should’ve been forced to spend two of their timeouts. If the Falcons don’t call the first timeout, Cleveland uses the first of their three timeouts. If the Falcons keep the ball on the ground or opt for a much easier completion, the clock is still running and the Browns use their second timeout.

Instead, Matt Bryant gives the Falcons a one-point lead with a 53-yard field goal, and the Browns are left with plenty of ammunition to leave the Georgia Dome with a win.

The time management debacle put on display was similar to what happened in the laughable 22-21 loss to the Detroit Lions in London a few weeks back.

Atlanta is the absolute best at finding ways to lose games. I should be used to it at this point, but I’m still floored as some of the decisions made.

Overall, the Falcons didn’t play well.

Offensively, Matt Ryan was uncharacteristically off target, making ill-advised throws into traffic and failing to connect with Julio Jones on more than a couple of passes. His stats weren’t terrible – 273 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception on 27/43 passing, but he looked worse than that. He was also sacked three times and lost a fumble on one sack.

Atlanta managed just 63 yards on the ground.

Defensively, it was the same old story. Cleveland was able to pile up a season-high 475 total yards. Columbus native Isaiah Crowell rushed for a 88 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries. Fellow rookie Terrance West had success, too, gaining 62 yards on 14 attempts.

The Falcons defense did pick Hoyer off three times, with two of the interceptions coming in the final minutes. Unfortunately, Atlanta didn’t capitalize, scoring just the field goal that gave the Falcons a temporary lead with under a minute left to go.

And yet, even with the loss, the Falcons remain atop the terrible NFC South after the New Orleans Saints lost to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.

The Falcons have another home game Sunday as they take on the Arizona Cardinals. I’m going in with zero expectations.


Follow me on Twitter: @projectjax

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