The Atlanta Falcons need answers and they need them now. After starting the year 5-0, the Falcons are in danger of becoming the first NFL team to end the season on a losing note. The intensity and passion have gone from a team that was once considered the team to beat in the NFC South. What’s the real problem with the Falcons?
Against the Panthers, the Falcons looked like the type of team that has taken the field the previous two seasons. A team folks would label as soft while being pushed around in the trenches, on both sides of the ball. There are too many mental breakdowns and moments of lost composure. During the five-game winning streak, the Falcons seemed to eagerly digest the new philosophy of head coach Dan Quinn. The tide has quickly turned.
The players seem to be just as confused and baffled as the coaching staff. There has to be a reason why a team full of better-than-average talent turned off the switch after game five. Atlanta Falcons linebacker Obrien Schofield wasn’t pleased with the performance of the team as a whole.
“That’s not us we put out there,” Schofield complained, per ESPN. “How we started the game, it’s not who we are as a football team. Me personally, I am just a little embarrassed because we owe our head coach, we owe our coaches, we owe our organization, we owe our fans, we owe each other more than that.”
The mindset is different for a reason. Once proud players have become numb and aren’t giving the effort it takes to win. They’re phoning in their emotion. After the Falcons’ loss to Tampa Bay in week 13, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Atlanta’s defense was lazy and jogging, when they allowed Jameis Winston to convert a third-and-19 attempt on the ground. Speaking via SBNation, McCoy called out the defense for their lack of intensity.
“Go back and look at the play and look at Jameis’ speed, and how he was playing, as opposed to look at the Atlanta Falcons and the speed they were playing at,” McCoy said. “Even when he started running again, guys were just jogging. You could just see the difference in how he was playing opposed to how the other team was playing. I mean, you just, we want it, man.”
Even head coach Dan Quinn admitted to getting frustrated and sick after watching the play again. It was bad, uninspired football at its worst.
The Falcons players have to look at themselves and ask if they want to end the season as the laughing-stock of the league. If the Falcons go to Jacksonville in week 15 and get pounded, it guarantees a subpar year. That shouldn’t be acceptable for the players, coaches, or organization.
Matt Ryan has to step up and take a better leadership role for the Falcons. Even though the offensive system is giving him grief, he has to find a way to win. The thought process has to return to winning, no matter what.
“There’s a time and a place to be tough and to demand more, and there’s a time and a place where you have to build people up and get the best from them,” Ryan said. “I have to find a way to get the best out of myself and the guys around me, and I haven’t done a good enough job of that.”
If the Falcons are to secure a winning record and salvage the hot start, the time is now. The year that seemed so promising has suddenly gone sour — in record time. Within the context of the last three weeks of the season, maybe the problem with the Falcons will be revealed.
[Feature Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]