BALTIMORE (AP) — In a season filled with narrow losses, the Atlanta Falcons saw their slim playoff hopes end in a cold loss after a typical slow start and a reiteration of coach Arthur Smith’s desire to show the team’s progress.
Between the opening kickoff and the final whistle of their 17-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, the Falcons were plagued by untimely penalties, costly turnovers and poor execution in the red zone.
The loss eliminated Atlanta (5-10) from playoff contention, a fate that seemed inevitable after the team went on a nosedive after a 3-3 start. Sure, the Falcons have dropped eight games by eight points or fewer, but that doesn’t make their current four-game skid easy to take.
“Ultimately, it’s about winning,” Smith said. “You can see the progress that’s going on. But we have to find ways to play as a leader. We have to find a way to get over that hump.
With rookie quarterback Desmond Reeder making his second NFL start, the Falcons went three-and-out on each of their first two possessions and had just 12 yards on offense in the first quarter played in freezing, 17-degree weather. Baltimore built a 14-3 lead at halftime and drove Atlanta out of the end zone.
The references didn’t help. In the final minute of the first half, an intentional grounding call on Rider was hit, turning the 1st into a quick field goal.
Smith angrily resisted the call from the sidelines, but later chose to keep his comments — and the good money to criticize the officials — to himself.
“I’d rather give that money to people in Atlanta,” Smith said. If they’re going to fine me a lot of money, I’d rather give it to people who need it.
Atlanta also caught fire on a third-quarter touchdown run that cut the deficit to 14-9, pending the conversion. And there was a fumble by star receiver Drake London in the second quarter, which turned out to be the game’s only turnover.
Overall, the Falcons converted just five of 14 third-down attempts and went 0-for-4 on their four trips into the red zone and failed to score.
“Situation football,” Ridder said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to go back and look at red zone, third down and turnovers, make sure we overcome all those things. Of course, situational football wasn’t our best today. That’s something we’ll look at and try to get better at.”
Afterward, Smith talked about looking to improve over the final two weeks at home against Arizona and Tampa Bay.
We are looking to win and grow. Then I will stop coming here and feeling like a broken record,” he said. “We have to win at home, win for our fans and finish this thing off right.”
Reeder, who went 22-for-33 for 218 yards, knows exactly how his coach feels.
“We’ve been on an up-and-down road this whole year,” the rookie said. “We wanted to get over that hump today. Obviously we didn’t. Now it’s on to the next one.”
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