Sunday afternoon, the Atlanta Falcons fell to 1-3 on the season as they were beaten by the Washington Football Team 34-30 in a wildly unpredictable game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Falcons led for 59 minutes and 27 seconds until The Football Team, led by Collins Hill High School alum Taylor Heinicke, traveled 76 yards on seven plays. J.D. McKissic took a short pass and ran it in with 33 seconds remaining in the game. Here are the four things we learned from this loss.
THIS PLAY IS LUDACRIS— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) October 3, 2021
📺 » FOX | #WASvsATL pic.twitter.com/6d6dGXeuaD
Cordarelle Patterson had a banner afternoon
The former Tennessee Volunteer led the Falcons in rushing (6 carries, 34 yards), receiving (5 catches, 82 yards) and had three touchdowns. Patterson was the Swiss-Army Knife that the Falcons wanted when they signed him during the off-season.
”He’s been great for us the first four weeks,” said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan of Patterson’s performance. “I think he’s played extremely well. Made plays for us in the run game, made plays for us in the pass game. In the return game he’s done a great job. So I think he impacts the game in so many different ways. I’m really glad that we have him. I love playing with him. He’s a bit of a throwback in terms of football players. He’s tough. He does a lot of different things and goes out there and competes very well”
Ryan had a largely clean pocket
The Falcons quarterback threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns. He was sacked once and hurried four times on 42 dropbacks. For the majority of the game, Ryan played well. Also, the offensive line put forth a decent performance. Coming into the weekend, Washington had a shaky defense coming off a lopsided loss to the Bills in which they gave up 481 yards of total offense. Ryan was able to seize upon The Football Team’s struggles.
However, that’s where the positives end.
Taylor Heinicke shines in homecoming
The aforementioned Collins Hill High School alum and Suwanee native went 23-of-33 for 290 yards and threw three touchdown passes. There was one play in particular which the Falcons defense could not get home. Heinicke was able to evade the rush as Dante Fowler was unable bring him down, Heinicke was able to wiggle free and find Terry McClaurin for a 17-yard touchdown strike. At that point, Washington was down 30-28 with 4:02 remaining in the fourth quarter. Heinicke was at his best when the Washington Football Team was down in the final stanza. Five of the ten longest plays for The Football Team happened in the fourth quarter.
“It was good to see them bounce back,” Washington head coach Ron Rivera said. “They fought hard. … With a guy like Taylor, we always have a chance.”
😱😱😱— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) October 3, 2021
📺 » FOX | #WASvsATL pic.twitter.com/sqTYPn740M
Falcons fail to execute when it matters most
First, the Falcons were up 30-28 with 3:52 remaining in the fourth quarter and went three and out. It was unacceptable and Ryan spoke to that during his post game presser. During the fourth quarter, Washington held the ball for 9:26 compared to 5:34 for Atlanta.
”If we want to be the kind of football team we want to be and the type of offense we’d like to be, I think, you know, you get in those situations, you want to be able to move the football, burn clock and get some first downs, and in that football game we didn’t do it. That part is disappointing and we’ve gotta improve there,” Ryan said.
Secondly, the defense failed to get stops in the fourth quarter. As McKissic leaped over the goal line, Washington had nine first downs to Atlanta’s four.
“Obviously frustrating,” Falcons first-year coach Arthur Smith said. “We had multiple opportunities to win that game. We didn’t.”
The Falcons will travel to North London next week to take on the New York Jets at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Jets got their first win of the season after beating the Tennessee Titans 27-24 in overtime. Kickoff is set for 9:30 AM Eastern (2:30 PM GMT) on NFL Network.