Falcons know they're shut, even at 5-7: 'We’ve an opportunity'

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Falcons know they're shut, even at 5-7: 'We’ve an opportunity'
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Falcons know they're shut, even at 5-7: 'We’ve an opportunity'
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The Falcons are 5-7, simply as they have been this time final 12 months, however head coach Arthur Smith sees a distinction.

It begins with the standings. A 12 months in the past, the Falcons have been 5-7, however 4 video games behind the NFC South-leading BuccaneersTampa Bay’s struggles this season have them at 5-6, so the Falcons are solely a half-game again with 5 video games remaining. Smith additionally sees progress in his younger roster and what they’ve proven in wins and losses.

“I consider we’re a a lot better group,” Smith mentioned Monday after their fifth loss by a single rating this season. “We’re a reasonably disciplined group. Knock on wooden, we do not get lots of penalties, we do not have lots of psychological errors. Does that make you’re feeling any higher that you just’re 5-7? No. However now we have an opportunity.”

Most middling groups aren’t so lucky to have a lot in play. The Patriots (6-5) and Commanders (7-5) have higher data and are in final place of their divisions, and the Chargers, whereas 6-5, are three video games and a tiebreaker behind the Chiefs. Because the Bucs proceed to stumble and cope with key accidents, the Falcons in some way stay proper within the thick of playoff competition.

“It is loopy that we’re nonetheless on this state of affairs,” Smith mentioned. “I really feel like a damaged file. We’re the place we have been two weeks in the past, the place we have been (Sunday). The way in which the schedule is, in a perverse approach, with a late bye, you are a half-game again within the NFC South, nevertheless that works out. It is a distinctive alternative, I suppose.”

And three of Atlanta’s subsequent 4 opponents even have shedding data, so there’s not only a hope, however even an inexpensive expectation of profitable these video games. Keep shut, maintain competing, and the season ends with these Bucs coming to Atlanta on Jan. 8.

“These guys, it doesn’t matter what’s occurred, they grind it out and it will repay. It has paid off,” Smith mentioned Monday. “These younger guys, they know what it is wish to be in stress. That is the world we dwell in. We play within the mud, and we will combat you and do all the pieces we will to throw at you to ensure now we have a shot to win the sport.”

The Falcons additionally know they may have extra wins than they do. Sunday’s loss to Washington noticed them poised on the 2-yard line within the closing minutes, down six factors, solely to have a Marcus Mariota go deflected on the line and intercepted in the long run zone. They led the Saints 26-10 within the fourth quarter earlier than a late collapse, and led the Chargers within the fourth quarter as effectively. In the event that they shut out these video games higher, this is able to be a division-leading Falcons group coming into the ultimate month of the season.

The Falcons have not received a division title since 2016, and their final season with a profitable file was 2017 — solely 4 NFL groups have gone longer with out one, and three (Giants, Commanders, Jets) have profitable data proper now, with solely the Broncos on tempo to proceed their drought.

Atlanta is 5-7 largely on the power of a top-five working assault, averaging 160 yards per sport regardless of lacking Professional Bowl working again Cordarrelle Patterson for 4 video games alongside the best way. They’re on tempo to hurry for two,720 yards, which on a per-game foundation can be the third-highest complete in group historical past, behind solely the 2004 and 2006 groups, which had Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn working all around the discipline.

They seem to be a half-game out of first regardless of a protection that ranks twenty fifth in factors allowed and within the backside 5 in yards, passing yards and third-down conversions. They’ve 17 sacks, and whereas solely the Rams have fewer per sport, there’s progress there, as they completed final 12 months with a league-low 18. Smith mentioned the group is aware of the place it wants to enhance to win the shut video games. The run protection may catch a break Sunday, because the Steelers is likely to be with out main rusher Najee Harris, who left the sport Sunday with an stomach harm.

“There are lots of issues we will enhance: run protection, run suits, issues which might be reasonable and never simply coachspeak,” Smith mentioned. “That can be our cost this week.”

The loss at Washington on Sunday stung the Falcons, however strolling off the sphere, Smith was reminded of his first 12 months as an NFL assistant, as a 25-year-old defensive quality-control coach with Washington in 2007. That Washington group was 5-3 and misplaced 4 in a row to have the identical 5-7 file his Falcons do now, earlier than ending the season on a tear.

“We ripped off 4 in a row and received within the playoffs,” Smith mentioned. “It occurs within the NFL. It occurs yearly. You make it onerous on your self, for rattling certain, however we’re (in competition). That is the fact of the state of affairs.”

Greg Auman is FOX Sports activities’ NFC South reporter, overlaying the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He’s in his tenth season overlaying the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Occasions and The Athletic. You’ll be able to comply with him on Twitter at @gregauman.


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