The Falcons were back in black Sunday and I don’t know why. The Atlanta Falcons, wearing their “throwback” uniforms of black jerseys and helmets from the 1990 through 2002 era. The Falcons lost on the last play of the game 22-19.
I blame the uniforms.
I’ve always hated these uniforms. I’m a red bird through and through. Maybe it is because I grew up in the old school era of the team, or maybe I saw the change back in 1990 merely a gimmick to hide serious flaws in talent and coaching. I love the “throwback” idea the NFL does. It’s like a ride down memory lane for us old farts; while even some have me searching Wikipedia to see what era they’re from. The Steelers’ are ugly but accurate. The Packers, you really have to know your football to understand, and well the Browns… they’ve never changed.
About eight years ago when this started the Falcons wore uniforms from the franchise’s inception. That was cool – even down to the striped socks. They quit for a couple of years and last year started doing the “back in black” thing. Why? Don’t they realize the team sucked during that era? Who are we immortalizing? Jerry Glanville? June Jones? Chris Miller? Yeah, I realize the Falcons have sucked for most of their time in the NFL – at least until Matt Ryan was drafted, but that era really sucked. It wasn’t until ten years ago that the team was able to post two consecutive winning seasons. There have been flashed over the years like the ’73 team that went 9-5 and was in first a majority of the season until down the stretch and the Leeman Bennett era that saw Steve Bartkowski lead the team to multiple playoff appearances, although never back-to-back. If the Falcons ant to do a retro uniform next year let’s try the red jerseys, red helmets and gray pants from the glory days of Bennett, Bartkowski, William Andrews and Lynn Cain, not to mention Gerald Riggs. And we could also use “Leeman’s Demon” as well as the “Grits Blitz” as the 2018 Falcons forgot how to tackle or pressure the quarterback.
This was evidenced in another big day for opposing running backs. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 122 yards and caught seven passes for 79 yards accounting for over 200 yards of total offense. His 23-yards touchdown run looked to put the game away at 19-9 but fate would have it that Atlanta would come back only to disappoint us in the end… again.
For the second week in a row the Falcons offense was able to move the ball only to have a penalty or an untimely sack stall the drive or even move them out of field goal range. At times coach Dan Quinn looked to be playing too conservative instead of attempting a 55-yard field goal, opting to punt instead.
The game was actually a snooze-fest during the first three quarters as teams traded field goals back and forth with the Falcons taking a not very convincing 9-6 lead into the fourth quarter. The two teams combined for 26 points in the quarter, making a somewhat exciting game out of one with potential but no zing.
The third quarter ended with the Cowboys deep in Atlanta territory finishing off a 75-yard drive two plays into the fourth quarter on a four-yard run by Dak Prescott. Outside of two 17-yard completions no play on the drive was longer than five yards. Prescott faked a handoff to Elliott that the Falcons fell for hook, line and sinker and then drove straight ahead to reclaim the lead. A missed extra point had the potential to appear ominous and sort of turned out that way. But things got really interesting when Atlanta got the ball. Ryan put a little too much mustard on a throw across the middle to Calvin Ridley and the back ricocheted into the arms of Leighton Vander Esch who returned the ball to the Atlanta 31. From there Elliott broke free and rumbled 23 yards into the end zone to give the Cowboys a 10 point lead with 12; 26 to play.
Ryan seemed unfazed and mounted another drive. The drive stalled at the Dallas three and the Falcons opted for the field goal to cut the Dallas lead to 19-12. The Falcons managed one more drive and tied the score on a Ryan to Jones 34-yard touchdown strike with 1:52 to play. And what has been the case for the Falcons defense this year, they were unable to hold. The Cowboys drove 51yards to set up Brett Maher’s 42-yard game winning field goal as time expired.
Once again the Falcons offense fiddled around like a kid with ADD. They would move the ball, lose concentration and then not come through until it was time to focus the last 12 minutes of the game when Ryan got efficient, the running game picked up the pace, but the defense were unable to hold serve despite Vic Beasley picking up two (!) sacks. No one else on the line picked up their game, however. Beasley, who hadn’t had a tackle in three games, but was left standing in his tracks by Elliott on a number of occasions. The one bright spot for Atlanta was the return of Matt Bryant, who was a perfect 4-for- on field goal attempts – two of which were from more than 50 yards. And it may be an odd stat, but the Falcons are the only team in the NFL who hasn’t missed a field goal this season. But field goals don’t help when touchdowns are needed as evidenced today.
And I blame it on the black uniforms. The Falcons have a losing record in these crummy throwbacks and I hope Arthur Blank will take heed and change these. Superficial, I know, but I had to suffer through the “Back in Black” era and there’s a reason it was black. And no, Elvis never did come by to pick up any tickets left to him by Jerry Glanville or anyone else.
With the loss the Falcons fall to 4-6 and have blown a great opportunity. The Carolina Panthers, just like the Falcons have lost their last two games. If Atlanta had won these past two games they were favored to win they would be tied with the Panthers for second place. Instead they are two games below .500 and not only in jeopardy of not making the playoffs, but not finishing with a .500 or better record. And to think a lot of people thought they were going to be the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl they hosted. Things don’t get any easier with road games against the Saints, Panthers and Bucs on the way.
Mercifully or unmercifully this is a short week for the Falcons who can hopefully put these missed opportunities behind them. They travel to New Orleans for Thanksgiving to play the Saints Thursday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:20pm and will be aired on NBC.
– Dave Weinthal