5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to Commanders

FLOWERY BRANCH – Panic at the Disco?

The Falcons donned their throwback jerseys and helmets and had an 1980s theme to the events surrounding Sunday’s home game against the Commanders. But when it was time to complete the last dance, did they panic at the disco?

With a chance to force a tie in the fourth quarter, quarterback Desmond Ridder tossed an ill-advised pass to Drake London that was intercepted by Washington’s Benjamin St-Juste. The Falcons were disorganized on a subsequent possession and then finally tossed another interception that ended their chances in the disappointing 24-16 loss.

“It’s not a panic,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said after the game. “There is so much that goes on right there. You saw the logistics…That’s not what it is. It was a miscommunication. It happened.”

Smith also pointed to turnovers and late-game management issues in the game, the first loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season..

“The operational errors, that hasn’t been a trend and we can’t let it become a trend,” Smith said on Monday. “But they happened. So, you have to acknowledge…it’s easy to say what happened. Why it happened and what are you going to do to fix them.”

Here are the five things we learned from the loss:

1. It’s raining turnovers: The Falcons are minus-6 in turnover differential, which ranks 27th in the 32-team NFL.

The Falcons have three interceptions and one fumble, but have given it away 10 times -- six interceptions and four fumbles.

Ridder had three interceptions in the loss to the Commanders. Safety Jessie Bates III and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said the defense can help out by creating move turnovers.

“We have to find a way to create more turnovers on defense,” Bates said. “It’s hard to win when you’re 0-3 in the turnover battle and you give up a big return in special teams.”

2. Unlocking the run game: Over the past two games, the Falcons stayed with the run when the Texans and the Commanders decided to place eight or nine players near the line of scrimmage.

Against the Commanders, the Falcons rushed for 106 yards on 29 carries. They had 96 yards on 36 carries against the Texans,

The Falcons scored one touchdown on the ground in the two games, and it was a seven-yard run by the QB Ridder.

“We have to score,” rookie running back Bijan Robinson said. “We can’t put our defense in situations of stopping them all the time and us going three-and-out or us making a bad drive. We have to get in the endzone.”

Robinson doesn’t care if they get into the endzone by running or passing.

“No matter how it looks, no matter what we do, we have to make the right calls, right reads and go score,” Robinson said. “When we do that, there is no stopping this whole team. It something where our defense can stay off the field, take a breather and not have to come back on the field really fast.”

3. Passing attack: The Falcons have shown they can pass the ball when teams are sitting on rushing attack. Ridder has thrown for back-to-back 300-yard games.

“You can’t deny that the passing game has gotten a lot better,” Smith said.

The Falcons attempted 47 passes against the Commanders.

“I thought the protection in the pocket was good,” Smith said. “Guys were getting opening.”

Could they have run it more?

“It’s a give and take,” Smith said. “Why force 45 runs when you have other ways to move it. That’s why you want to be balanced. "

4. Getting to the quarterback: The Falcons had a good day rushing the passer.

They sacked Washington quarterback Sam Howell five times and had 10 quarterback hits. The Falcons entered the game last in the league in sacks with five, so they doubled their season total in only four quarters Sunday.

“Absolutely encouraging to see us get to the quarterback,” Jarrett said. “Definitely trust in the process where it came to life (against the Commanders) and everybody got a little piece of the action, none bigger than Mr. 100. Congratulations to Calais (Campbell). Happy he accomplished that feat. Only a few players in NFL history every have.”

Falcons outside linebacker Arnold Ebiketie had 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits.

“It felt good,” Ebiketie said. “Just came down to the combination of the front seven and the back end doing their job. Making the quarterback kind of hold the ball, disguising the coverages a little bit more.”

Ebiketie hopes the pass rush can get on a roll.

“It was a momentum builder,” Ebiketie said. “We understand that when we are able to pressure the quarterback and make him uncomfortable, the way that we did (on Sunday) it helps our defense get the ball back to our offense.”

5. Tight business operation: Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the sideline mismanagement was not a “tight business operation” during a radio interview on 92.9TheGame on Monday.

Smith promised the team will look at their late-game operation.

“Subbing late, trying to get a guy back in there,” Smith said. “Trying to get the right call. It gets late in there and then you have to make a decision to burn the timeout and that shouldn’t happen either.”

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