The Atlanta Falcons closed out the 2020 season with a 44-27 loss on the road to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The Falcons finished the season with four wins and twelve defeats. Atlanta has lost their last five games and has clinched the fourth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Earlier in the week, Atlanta’s interim head coach, Raheem Morris, interviewed for the head coaching position.
“You let you guys sum that up. That’s your guys’ job,” said Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris. “It is what it is. Had a chance to interview with these guys. It was a great interview. I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Blank and some of the people at the top, Rich McKay and some others. Had a lot of fun with that. That time is over with. Now we play the waiting game and we’ll see how it goes and see what the decision-makers say.”
The decision makers have a plethora of questions they must answer by the time next season arrives. First and foremost, Atlanta finished 29th in the NFL in rushing yards. In the last three games, the Falcons averaged a paltry 65.7 yards on the ground, which is 31st in the league. The offensive line has given up 41 sacks this season. Defensively, the Falcons have given up on average 398 yards per game and allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 68% of their passes.
Today was no different for Atlanta. Tom Brady threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns.
“Whatever happens for me as a quarterback is reflective of what our group does on offense,” said Brady. “I love playing with the guys I play with. We’ve got a great group of receivers, great group of tight ends – very selfless – the backs have done an incredible job. The way the offensive line is playing and protecting gives any quarterback a great opportunity. It’s a team sport – those are great team accomplishments. Just proud of all the guys [for] what they put in this year. Now we’re moving into the playoffs. We have a great opportunity ahead of us and we’ve got to go try and take advantage of it.”
Star receiver Mike Evans was carted to the locker room with a left knee injury late in the first quarter and did not return.
Evans was hurt one play after a 20-yard reception made him the first player in NFL history to begin a career with seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He went down trying to make a catch in the end zone and was carted to the locker room after first trying to walk off with assistance from a trainer.
“It meant the world for him to get that record and, then, to have an easy touchdown,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “The turf was really slick in the end zone. It was just a freaky thing. Knock on wood, we don’t think there is any serious damage, but we will know more in the next 24 hours.”
Tampa finished the season with eleven wins with five defeats and clinched the fifth seed in the playoffs. The Falcons once again have to figure out where they’ll go from here. Various mock drafts have Atlanta selecting Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback and Harrison High School product Justin Fields with the fourth overall pick.
“It’s disappointing. Coming into the year, you always have high expectations and a belief that you’re going to be competing for a championship in January into February,” said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. “When that doesn’t come to fruition, it’s disappointing. We’re all obviously disappointed with how this year shook out. Hopefully better days are ahead for us.”
As the afternoon window of games came to a close, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed his defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will interview for the head coaching gig tomorrow. Under Saleh’s leadership, San Francisco’s defense ranks No. 5 in the league in total yards of offense allowed per game (316.7), fourth in average passing yards allowed (211.2), is tied for sixth in total rushing yards allowed per game (105.5) and is allowing 24.3 points per game. The 49ers also have 20 takeaways this season. They appeared in Super Bowl LIV in the 2019 season.
Moreover, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley are on the Falcons shortlist, according to various reports.