In a game that featured two teams that seemingly don’t know how to win a close game, something had to give. It was the Atlanta Falcons who capitulated in a 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Here’s a look at the Good, Bad, and Ugly from the Falcons loss in LA.
* The defense played well enough to win. The Falcons gave up 20 points despite three turnovers. In a classic “Bend but don’t Break” philosophy, the Falcons let Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert dink and dunk his way to 240 yards passing on a whopping 36 completions, but rarely gave up the big play. The Chargers longest play from scrimmage was 25 yards. The defense stood up and held the Chargers to a field goal after a 76 yard kick off return.
* Rookie corner A.J. Terrell was outstanding. One of the reasons the Chargers didn’t get many big plays was Terrell. The rookie from Clemson was targeted early, but the sure tackling defensive back had a staggering 13 solo tackles and was key in stopping Charger drives in the second half with some big plays in the open field on short completions. Isaiah Oliver was solid in the open field as well, snuffing out the Charger’s second drive with a key third down tackle in the open field.
* Life after Julio. The Falcons star receiver missed the game because of injury, and the Falcons wide receivers played well in his absence. Calvin Ridley isn’t Julio Jones. He’s never going to be Julio Jones. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good number one receiver in the NFL. Ridley and Russell Gage combined for 13 catches for 206 yards and a touchdown. Literally. Ridley’s touchdown catch was a perfectly thrown ball from Gage who had lined up as a wildcat quarterback. The ability to run the ball out of that formation just got a lot easier with a legitimate passing threat to keep the defense honest. Big body receiver Laquon Treadwell had his first catch for the Falcons, and the former first round pick turned it into Atlanta’s second touchdown. Unfortunately, it was Treadwell’s only catch of the game.
* Top 5 Pick? With the Falcons losing their second in a row and the Cowboys and Chargers winning, Atlanta is in a five way tie for the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft. Carolina and Houston are also 4-9.
* The defense couldn’t get off the field. While the defense played well enough to win on the whole, when the Chargers got a drive going, the Falcons couldn’t stop them. The Chargers opening drive was 15 plays. LA had a 16 play drive to end the first half that didn’t end up in points because of poor clock management. The Chargers second touchdown drive was 13 plays and 80 yards. On LA’s two touchdown drives in the game, Herbert was 15/15 passing. In all, the Chargers had nearly a 10 minute advantage in time of possession across the course of the game.
* The running game never got going. Todd Gurley’s return to face his former team was a bust. He touched the ball on five consecutive plays on the Falcons second drive that ended in Atlanta’s first touchdown, but he finished the game with only six carries and two receptions for a paltry 31 yards from scrimmage.
* The Chargers longest play in the game of 25 yards came in the final minute to set up the game winning field goal. The Falcons rushed four men on that play and didn’t pressure Herbert.
* Matt Ryan. Ryan had one of his worst games as a Falcon. He’s thrown interceptions before, every quarterback does, but each of his interceptions on Sunday were game changers. Atlanta had outscored the Chargers 17-3 since LA’s opening touchdown, had just watched them give away three points at the end of the half, then LA to a quick three and out to open the third quarter. The Falcons were driving with 1st and 10 in Charger territory and Ryan throws deep into the end zone to Calvin Ridley who was blanketed by two Charger defenders. Maybe Jones can knock that ball down, but it was a bad decision. Ryan’s second interception came at the end of an 11 play drive that had seen the Falcons get to the Chargers 16. The third, that gave the ball back to the Chargers to set up the game winning field goal.
* Losing to the Chargers. The Chargers are a team that may know less about winning than the Falcons. LA was a staggering 4-16 in one score games over the course of the last two seasons. That tells us they’re in a lot of close game, but they don’t know how to win them. This version of the Falcons has absolutely zero belief late in games. Blidi Wreh-Wilson came up with the interception the Falcons needed to get the game winning field goal, and the Falcons gifted the game back to them.
Next Up – The Falcons host Tom Brady and the 8-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at 1PM