The Falcons laid an egg on Sunday.
No surprise there. The Falcons have spent most of their 50 years laying eggs.
This, one, though, was unique, even when measured against the Falcons depressing history.
They ventured up to Charlotte with a chance to honor themselves with a strong showing against the NFL’s last undefeated team. Not that they were going to cause Don Shula and his ’72 Dolphins to uncork the champagne.
But they could have at least shown up.
In the opening gambit, it took Carolina all of 3:32 to negotiate 80 yards in 8 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Jonathan Stewart managed a 44-yard run on the third play of the game.
The Falcons’ opening drive featured a 21-yard run by Devonta Freeman. This became noteworthy because, during his other 11 carries on the day, he amassed 19 yards. By averaging 1.72 yards on those 11 totes, Freeman needed only six carries to make a first down.
But thanks to Freeman’s long jaunt, Carolina had to travel 93 yards on its next possession.
It took them three plays.
The last, a 74-yard catch and run by Ted Ginn, Junior, was achieved despite a holding call on Robert Alford. For good measure, Alford appeared to surrender the chase of Ginn halfway down the field. It was typical of the effort exerted by the Falcons on this day.
And if that wasn’t enough excitement, the extra point somehow enraged defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman. After a shoving match on the field, Hageman continued hostilities on the sideline. With defensive line coach Bryan Cox. Head coach Dan Quinn had to intercede.
It was the most aggression exhibited by a Falcons defensive lineman all afternoon.
Ginn found the endzone again on the Panthers next possession, hauling in another Cam Newton pass to complete another scoring play. This one covered a mere 46 yards. The drive: 80 yards in 7 plays lasting 3:23. Sound eerily familiar?
So, let’s review. At the end of the first quarter, Carolina led, 21-0. Their three scoring drives totaled 253 yards in 18 plays over 8:13.
Think about that. The Falcons managed to hold the Panthers to 14.05 yards per play during the quarter. Carolina averaged a first down on every snap!
Isn’t the Falcons’ new head coach considered a defensive savant?
In fairness, we should note that the Falcons improved over the final three quarters. They only lost those 17-0.
And we’d be remiss carping about the defense without mentioning that the offense contributed four turnovers.
Slap yourself upside the head and ask if this is the same team that destroyed Houston, 48-21, just 10 weeks ago. The same team that got down, 14-0 to Dallas the week before that, and rallied for an exciting 39-28 win.
The same team that won its first five games. Now they’re too awful to watch. Unless you enjoy watching train wrecks.
For 50 years the Falcons have displayed ineptitude unique in NFL annals. It took them 45 years to achieve back-to-back winning seasons. It took 15 years to win a division title.
It took 33 years to reach the Super Bowl.
It now looks like it’ll take 33 more to reach another one.
This from a team that was five yards away three years ago.
Head coach Dan Quinn seems determined to prove that it’s a roll of the dice anytime you hire the “hot” assistant who’s never been a head coach before.
While he seemed to have all the answers until mid-October, now he seems clueless. Though he did convey an accurate assessment of Sunday’s carnage.
“Got way behind,” the astute Quinn told atlantafalcons.com, “and that part was extremely disappointing.”
Glad the few Falcon fans left weren’t the only ones disappointed.
Quinn continued, “Too many explosive plays defensively that put us way behind, and then couldn’t convert the opportunities offensively like we’re capable of.”
A defensive mastermind should consider one explosive play one too many. As for the offense, well, since the 5-0 start, its averaged 14.5 points per game.
In other words, after the third explosive play of the first quarter, this game was over.
Carolina might be the better team, but there’s no excuse for a lack of effort.
Just like there’s no reason for a coach to have to huddle his team around him during a game. “We didn’t keep our poise like we should,” Quinn quipped.
So much for the thought that the Falcons are professionals.
Quinn’s final lamentation sounded more like a resignation: “We can’t beat ourselves.”
Now, this they seem to be accomplishing in grand style.