October 27, 2019 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson during the third quarter in an NFL football game on Sunday, October 27, 2019, in Atlanta. It had been four games since the Falcons recorded their last sack. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Analysis: Falcons tumble into bye week as most disappointing team in NFL 

Falcons owner Arthur Blank has essentially seen enough.

He’s “extraordinarily disappointed” in the 1-7 team at the halfway point of what was supposed to a season where the Falcons would contend for the NFC South title.

Right now, they are just trying to find a way to get their second win with the winds of change starting to blow in Flowery Branch. 

“I felt like we had good energy out there,” defensive end Vic Beasley said after Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Seahawks, the team’s sixth straight defeat. “But just the mindset, we have to continue to have that positive mindset. Everybody is trying to fight to get that second win. I think that’s what is pushing us every week.”

The Falcons have a bye this week and Beasley has heard the trade rumors, with the league trading deadline fast approaching. The deadline is 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

“If a trade happens, it happens,” Beasley said. “Until then, I’ll keep fighting for this team.”

No one expected much from Miami (0-6), Cincinnati (0-8) or Washington (1-7) this season. But to see the Falcons down in the basement with the lower-level teams in the league is chilling. While Denver’s 2-6 is a mild surprise, the Falcons are easily the most disappointing team in the league.   

Here are five things we learned from the loss to Seattle. 

1. Freeman’s fumble was costly: The Falcons were down 24-11 and trying to rally when running back Devonta Freeman fumbled at the 1-yard line. Linebacker Marquise Blair caused the fumble and Bobby Wagner scooped it up early in the fourth quarter.

The replay official reviewed the fumble and it was upheld.

If the Falcons scored at touchdown, it would have made it a one-score game, 24-18, because they likely would have kicked the extra point.

“I thought that was a huge part of this,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “When you turn it over at the one, you don't have a chance to keep answering. Especially when you're in a hole; you have zero margin for any error. When that happens, from my vantage point I couldn't tell (if he was) down or not. They are automatically reviewable, so New York took a look and said from their vantage point it would not be overturned.”

When the Falcons needed someone to make a play, Freeman didn’t come through.

Freeman rushed 13 times for 39 yards and caught eight passes for 63 yards. 

“He's very talented and important to our team,” quarter Matt Schaub, filling in for the injured Matt Ryan, said. “Whether it's run, pass, pass pro, you know, he's a weapon for us. We got down by so much we couldn't really run. We came out and ran it a little bit in the first drive of the second half, but then just had to throw the ball to move it. From that aspect, we got a little bit one-sided.”

Freeman has rushed for 333 yards on 97 carries this season for a paltry 3.4 yards per carry average and doesn’t have a rushing touchdown through eight games. Tevin Coleman, who was not retained in free agency, had three rushing touchdowns in San Francisco’s rout of Carolina. He has eight rushing touchdowns on the season. 

In addition to Beasley, Freeman and defensive end Adrian Clayborn were mentioned by John Clayton in an article for the Washington Post as players on the trading block for the Falcons.

Freeman’s contract may work against a deal. He has three years remaining on the five-year extension which includes a guaranteed base salary of $6.5 million for next season, $6.3 million in 2021 and $8.2 million in 2022. 

2. Schaub has a day: Schaub completed 39 of 52 passes for 460 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

While Ryan is expected to be recovered from his right ankle sprain in time for the Saints game on Nov. 10, at least the Falcons know that Schaub, 39, can get them through a game or two.

He leaned heavily on wide receiver Julio Jones, who had 10 catches for 152 yards.

With Mohamed Sanu traded to the Patriots, Russell Gage and Calvin Ridley received more action out of the slot.

Gage caught 7 of 9 targets for 58 yards and Ridley, who left the game to get examined for a concussion and returned, caught 4 of 7 targets for 70 yards. 

“In the second half, I thought Schaub showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness,” Quinn said. “A bunch of guys got involved inside with the addition that we added inside with Gage and Ridley and the movement that they used inside. They were tough to guard in the slot.”

It was Schaub’s fifth career game of passing for at least 400 yards and his first with the Falcons. 

Schaub's 39 completions set a new franchise record, topping the previous mark of 37, shared by Matt Ryan (twice) and Chris Miller.

Schaub’s 460 yards are the second most in a single-game in franchise history, behind Ryan's record of 503 set in a 48-33 win over Carolina on Oct. 2, 2016. Jones had 300 yards receiving on 12 catches to help Ryan set the mark. 

It was Jones’ fourth 100-yard game this season and the 53rd of his career. 

3. Run defense got gashed: Seattle running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny combined to rush 28 times for 145 yards and Carson scored on a touchdown run.

Carson, who went to Parkview High, rushed 20 times for 90 yards and ran with power. He lowered his shoulder on Falcons’ defenders a couple of times. 

Penny had eight carries for 55 yards and also ran with authority.  

“We loved seeing that happen,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Those guys both looked great. That is what we pictured us looking like with those two guys.”

After Falcons kicker Matt Bryant missed a 51-yard field goal that would have tied the game, the Seahawks flexed their muscles in the running game. Penny broke loose for 9 yards and then powered over left guard for 17 yards. The Seahawks tossed a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Tyler Lockett and then went right back to the ground game.  Carson picked up 12 yards over right guard and then 3 yards over left tackle before 

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to rookie DK Metcalfe, who was wide open in the end zone.

On the demoralizing drive, the Seahawks took control of the game.

“It’s frustrating anytime that you see a running back have success like that,” Quinn said. 

4. First-half blues: The Falcons have not come ready to play all season or they are just not good enough to build a first half lead. 

The Falcons have been outscored 144-50 in the first halves through eight games.

“We know the importance of getting out early and not having a wait-and-see mindset and mentality,” Quinn said. “Coming (out to start the game) the Seahawks got a field goal and we’ve got to answer. We weren’t able to do that. Missed two kicks in the first half and had a turnover. When you don’t get a chance to answers, that’s a big part of starting slowly.”

The Falcons have made it a habit of digging first-half holes and they have not been able to come back from any of the deficits. 

The 24-0 halftime deficit was their largest of the season.

The Falcons were down 21-0 at Minnesota, up 10-6 against the Eagles, down 20-3 to the Colts, down 24-7 to the Titans, up 17-16 against the Texans, down 20-10 against the Cardinals and down 13-3 against the Rams.

“It’s tough,” Beasley said. “We got down early. We just have to continue to fight. We fought better in the second half. We just want to do that for all four quarters.”

5. Falcons got two sacks: The Falcons entered the game without a sack over their last 318 defensive snaps. 

The Falcons defense snapped its sack-less streak when defensive tackle Grady Jarrett dropped Wilson with 8:52 left in the third quarter. It was the Falcons first sack since the 9:50 mark of third quarter of the Colts’ game on Sept. 22. Defensive tackle Tyeler Davison added a sack in the fourth quarter. 

The sack occurred on the 40th defensive snap of the game. 

The Falcons’ sack drought lasted for 357 defensive snaps. 

“We just wanted to attack the quarterback,” Jarrett said. “We even hit him (Wilson) a couple times and he made some nice completions, so he’s special in doing that. But it felt good to get to the quarterback.” 

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