Both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons will enter this week’s matchup with doing something consistently. For the defending Super Bowl champions, they have consistently been winning football games. They have only one loss in their last 23 games, including both the regular season and postseason. Meanwhile, the Falcons have been consistently blowing leads in games they appear to have a handle on.
That happened once again last week, as Atlanta held a 17-0 lead at halftime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And they held a healthy 24-7 lead with around seven and a half minutes left in the third quarter. Nonetheless, we have seen this same song and dance before. It was bound to be a collapse, especially with the lack of pressure and resistance that Tom Brady faced in the latter portions of the game. The Falcons would eventually lose 31-27. Running the ball and chewing clock also continues to be a disaster for the Falcons. Who knows what kind of team will show up against Kansas City in Arrowhead Stadium this week. For more on this week’s Chiefs’ opponent, here is our view of the Atlanta Falcons from behind enemy lines.
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Boom Or Bust
For many years, Matt Ryan‘s play has been steady and not completely recognized. His ability to fearlessly push the ball down the field is something that DBs don’t continuously see week in and week out. For many years, the Boston College product has carried a mediocre Falcons roster singlehandedly on his back. That appears to be more obvious this season. With Julio Jones constantly dealing with injuries, Todd Gurley becoming a shell of himself and a leaky defense on the other side, Ryan has been through a lot. And still this season, his numbers remain right up there with what he has produced over the last handful of years.
Unfortunately for the Atlanta Falcons offense, Ryan cannot do it all alone. We mentioned Gurley briefly. The former Georgia Bulldog and Los Angeles Ram star has seemingly lost his starting role. He has season averages of just 49.5 rushing yards, 3.5 yards per attempt and 14 carries per game. All of those are at or near career low levels. Interim head coach Raheem Morris began this week by naming Ito Smith the new starting ball carrier.
On the other hand, Jones and Calvin Ridley continue to dominate at receiver. The addition of tight end Hayden Hurst has also been a blessing in disguise. It has failed to all come together at once for an up and down Falcons offensive unit, though.
Improving or False Hope?
For most of the middle part of the season, it appeared that the Atlanta defense had turned a corner. Over the course of eight games from Weeks 6-14 they were stingy in the crucial downs. A respectable mark of 20.1 points per game allowed stood out. Largely, because they were able to keep playmakers like Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Keenan Allen and many others in check during that span. Turnovers were continually turned into points. And more importantly, we saw crushing hits and aggressive stands in the opponents’ backfields lead to those they played backing down.
Where the Atlanta Falcons have struggled to improve and build through free agency or the draft is in the secondary. It has taken a long time for former draft picks like Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield to acclimate to the NFL scene. Even AJ Terrell felt like a pick that was too rich or reaching for a need last April at 16 overall for a cornerback. The dynamic plays continue to be given up much too often on the back end. That was a big reason for the downfall last week against Tampa Bay.
Players like Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett and Foyesade Oluokun continue to remain the lone bright spots. All of these players can be forces in slowing down both the run or pass game. The Chiefs must be able to stay aware and account for that trio on Sunday. But overall, the Atlanta Falcons have shown little to no semblance of being able to build a deep defense around them.
From Interim To Permanent?
We mentioned interim head coach Raheem Morris earlier. After an 0-5 start, the Dan Quinn era was finally put to an end. The team was busting at the seams and did not show any change over the last few seasons. From once being one half away from winning a Super Bowl title, to the lowest depths of the league, it was time for a change.
And for the most part, Morris has changed the Falcons for the better. He has put players in positions to succeed. Furthermore, the team has shown greater belief in themselves against more difficult opponents. The Atlanta Falcons have gone 4-5 with him at the helm. Not all of the mistakes have been all on the coaching decisions like before, either. This has boosted Morris’ resume going into the offseason.
In fact, some believe he will end up retaining the Falcons head coaching job going in to 2021 and beyond. And that interview process has already begun. Of course, Atlanta will likely do their due diligence by interviewing as many applicable head coaching candidates as they see fit. Morris previously held the HC position of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009-11. He went a combined 17-31 there, with a 10-6 campaign in 2010 standing out. Whether it was his youth at the time (currently 44 years old) or the lack of talent on the Bucs back then, Morris appears much more prepared and determined for a head coaching job now. We will find out soon enough if that will end up being the case with the Atlanta Falcons.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles to end the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.