The Falcons know they likely have to win out in order to have any shot at the playoffs.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the next game,” corrnerback Robert Alford said after an ugly 22-19 final-second loss to the Cowboys Sunday that dropped the Falcons to 4-6. “The playoffs are going to happen. We have to take it one game at a time. The thing that gets you to the playoffs is (wins) and that’s our main focus.”
The Saints (9-1) and the Panthers (6-4) are ahead of the Falcons in the NFC South. The Bucs are in last place at 3-7.
The Falcons have a six percent chance of the making the playoffs, according to playoffstatus.com.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn doesn’t believe he has a 4-6 football team.
“No, I don’t,” Quinn said when asked if he felt he had a 4-6 team. “Only because I love the fight of the guys, the energy, the attitude that goes into it.
“But that is where we are and that's the hard part for us. That's why, honestly, we'll just go into this week and just this game and not think about the big picture.”
» Mark Bradley: 4-6 Falcons down and surely out
The players were also clinging to that message.
“Right now, I’m just looking at the next game on Thanksgiving night,” wide receiver Calvin Ridley said. “We have to get us a big one.”
Upsetting the Saints would definitely be a big win. The Saints clobbered the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles, 48-7, on Sunday.
Ridley, who bobbled a catch that led to an interception, knows the tough loss will be hard to rebound from.
“Put it behind us and go back to work like we’ve been doing every week,” Ridley said. “Come out Thursday ready.”
The Falcons were taking the defeat hard. They have lost games in the final minutes to Philadelphia, New Orleans (in overtime), Cincinnati and Dallas this season.
“At the end of the day, we have to learn how to finish games,” Alford said.
On final drive, that led to a Cowboys field goal, Alford got his hands on a deep pass that was intended for Michael Gallup.
“I made a play up on the ball,” Alford said. “I have to pick that off. I take all responsibility for that. A player of my caliber, I have to pick those off.”
Alford had an ankle injury and doesn’t appear to have his normal speed. He was in coverage on two key gains in the game-winning drive.
“I was playing the technique and Dak (Prescott) scrambled or some junk,” Alford said. “(Cole) Beasley went to where the scramble was. I just have to squeeze it more. Make plays.”
The Falcons locker room was somber after the crushing defeat.
“The feeling in here is not what we expected,” Alford said. “We are a great team. We just have to come back and play our tails off.”
The Falcons may get a boost from the return of middle linebacker Deion Jones, who was activated last Monday and went through one week of practice on his surgically repaired broken right foot.
The defense gave up 122 yards rushing on 23 carries to Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, who also had a 23-yard touchdown run. He also caught seven passes for 79 yards for 201 total yards.
The Falcons, who were a fashionable preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, now are in danger of not making the playoffs and the season rolling off the rails all together.
“It’s a mindset,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “You have to make plays when they are there. You have to make good decisions all the way around. We have to find a way to come out on the (right) end. We’ve had a lot of games this year that came down to that last possession.
“We won a lot of those in the past, but this year we’ve been on the wrong side of it. We’ve got to find a way to win.”
Jarrett is one of the team leaders, but he doesn’t have any words of encouragement for the team.
“Ain’t nothing to say,” Jarrett said. “Some times we talk too much. It ain’t nothing to say, but go back to work. Some times we talk too much. It is what it is. I mean, ain’t no excuse for nothing.
“That’s how I live my life. Ain’t no excuse. You’ve got to go work. You’re going to get whupped some times. You are going to lose some times, but what are you going to do when it’s time to (man) up. We have to (man) up right now.”
The Falcons had won three in a row to get back to .500 at 4-4, but now have loss two straight, including a disappointing loss to the Browns.
All they could really do is look toward to facing the Saints.
“They are a really good team,” left tackle Jake Matthews said. “They are playing well. ... Be fired up and ready to go. I’m fully expecting to win.”
It was pointed out to Matthews that the 2016 Green Bay Packers, with his cousin Clay Matthews on it, were the last team to win their final six games and make the playoffs.
“Stranger things have happened,” Matthews said. “I can say that we’re going to work hard. We’ll be ready to go. That’s where we are at right now.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.