Falcons Meet Bears: The Rest Is History

When I ended my piece on the Atlanta Falcons last week, I didn’t think “Sunday was just the latest exhibit, but unlikely the last” would mean the very next game would result in another epic collapse. It certainly didn’t seem likely when Atlanta led 26-10 with just over nine minutes left and the Bears were struggling with Nick Foles, who came off the bench in the third quarter to replace Mitchell Trubisky following an interception.

But given the first two weeks of the season for these teams and Foles’ history of beating Atlanta (2017 playoffs and 2018 opener), maybe it was inevitable. Either way, it was historic.

The 2020 Falcons are the first team in NFL history to blow a fourth-quarter lead of 15+ points twice in the same season, doing so in back-to-back games. The only other team to do it twice in one 365-day period was the 2003-04 Seahawks against Baltimore and St. Louis. The 2020 Bears are the first team in NFL history to win two games in the same season after trailing by at least 16 points in the fourth quarter. They also finished off Detroit in Week 1 after trailing 23-6.

Prior to 2020, a 15+ point comeback win in the fourth quarter was something that only happened 64 times in NFL history. These are pretty rare outcomes, though we have seen 10 of them since 2016, including four games that involved at least one of these teams. This is the third time the Falcons have blown one since 2016 and I don’t even need to mention what the third game was. You just know.

What struck me about this game and motivated me to write something was just how improbable it was for Chicago to win despite a lot of failure in making the 26-10 comeback:

  • In the third quarter, Foles threw a 50/50 ball on his first drive replacing Trubisky and it was intercepted in the end zone.
  • With 10:46 left to play, Anthony Miller dropped a touchdown on fourth down in the end zone.
  • After scoring one touchdown, Foles was intercepted on a two-point conversion try with 6:20 left, keeping it a two-score game at 26-16.

That’s not the cleanest comeback you’ll ever see, and yet the Bears were able to drive for three touchdowns in SEVEN MINUTES AND 17 SECONDS without even using a timeout. How the hell does Atlanta allow that to happen?

As you may expect, it’s more coaching malpractice from Dan Quinn and company. The kicking game also missed a 48-yard field goal with 13:35 left that could have made a big difference late.

However, what shocked me was how complicit Matt Ryan was in this collapse. Last week I covered how great he was in the games they’ve lost before, but this was not the case on Sunday. He didn’t have Julio Jones available, but Ryan played well enough for most of the game. But in the fourth quarter, Ryan started by throwing seven straight incompletions and taking a sack that made the missed field goal harder. I’m not even going to talk about the final drive where Ryan threw an interception to effectively end the game.

The game never should have reached that point, but the Atlanta offense went three-and-out on three straight drives that consumed a mind-boggling TWO MINUTES AND 58 SECONDS. He could have taken seven god damn kneeldowns and likely would have walked away a winner (and with a higher completion percentage).

I watched the seven throws. They increasingly got worse, and only one was dropped, which may have set up a third-and-medium situation with around four minutes left. It was a terrible finish for the quarterback.

Perhaps the main complaint against Atlanta in the 28-3 Super Bowl collapse was not running the ball in the fourth quarter. It happened again here as if the team’s learned nothing.

What happens if the Falcons just run the ball instead of throwing so many clock-stopping incompletions in the fourth quarter? Now the quick analysis I’m going to do next isn’t the greatest method in the world, because it’s making a big assumption that Chicago would do things the same exact way they did. It also can’t predict exactly what Atlanta’s runs would bring, but let’s just look at how easy Atlanta made this comeback for Chicago. I’m going to take off about a net of 43 seconds for each run assuming the time to run the play after milking the play clock to one:

4Q Drive 1: Falcons run instead of throwing incomplete on 2nd-and-7, clock goes down to 13:40. Falcons run on third down instead of a sack, clock goes down to 12:57 before field goal attempt. Chicago gets ball back with 12:51 left, a total loss of 44 seconds.

4Q Drive 2: Instead of throwing on 3rd-and-5 up 16, Falcons just go conservative and run again before punting. Bears get ball back with another loss of 38 seconds (82 seconds total).

4Q Drive 3: Up 10, Atlanta starts with 4:53 left instead of the actual drive time of 6:15. Maybe this is where the Bears start to use their three timeouts, but two extra runs instead of passes and a punt could chop off an extra 75 seconds, leaving the Bears with 3:00 left.

At this point, even if the Bears only used a minute (they used 59 seconds in real life) to score another touchdown, they’d still be down 26-23 at just about the two-minute warning. They could kick deep given their three timeouts, or they could do the onside kick. Maybe they already used their timeouts and have some extra time left, but either way, it’d be much better than what really happened: Atlanta throwing three straight incompletions with 4:21 left and a drive that consumed an embarrassing 22 seconds.

Running the ball may not be cool anymore, but it’s the safest way to bleed the clock. They signed Todd Gurley for a reason, right? Just run more when you’re up 16, your quarterback can’t get the ball wet if he was in the ocean, and your defense can’t be trusted.

Seven straight incompletions to help the Bears score three touchdowns in 7:17 without even using a timeout. It’s just baffling stuff for a team that should be 2-1 right now and looking at a division where they can actually do something this year. But will there be any fight left in Atlanta by the Week 10 bye? Afterwards their schedule is loaded with two games against Drew Brees and the Saints, two games against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, and they’ll see Patrick Mahomes right after Christmas. Oh, and they’ll be in Aaron Rodgers’ house this Monday night.

Maybe we won’t see many more Atlanta leads this season, and if the last two weeks are any indication, maybe that’s a good thing.

Start cleaning house.

NFL Week 16 Predictions, Adrian Peterson’s Dominance and Writing Recap

It will be a happy holidays as Jets/Titans didn’t go down as the last NFL game ever played.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 15: 49ers and Patriots Play NFL’s Game of the Year – Cold, Hard Football Facts

We only had five games to recap this week with a ton of blowouts on Separation Sunday, but at least we got the game of the year. San Francisco at New England was deserving of a monster recap, as we look at all the teams to come back from 28+ points, finding that only two of the seven have actually gone on to win the game. Also look at the teams who have come back from 21+ down in the fourth quarter and lost, which includes the Patriots three times now. Dallas and Pittsburgh also played an overtime thriller, and the Cowboys are on their biggest run of clutch wins in team history.

NFL Season Changes in a Day…Again – NBC Sports

The NFL is a week-to-week league, and after Sunday’s results, everything changed. Again. The biggest winners were San Francisco and Denver, as they now have the inside track to the No. 2 seed in each conference. Denver should be in Super Bowl or bust mode this season, as they may never have a better chance at a ring.

After Season of Blowouts, What Can We Expect from 2013 NFL Playoffs? – Bleacher Report

It is hard to define a marquee game during the regular season, but I found it even harder to find ones that were really competitive this season. It’s been a lot of blowouts, so what does that mean for the playoffs? A look at the previous five seasons.

Note: I still contend the title of the article should be 2012 and not 2013, but not everyone agrees.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 15 at Houston Texans – Colts Authority

J.J. Watt led a dominant attack against Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense in a 29-17 win. Luck was pressured on a season-high 51.5 percent of his drop backs. In his last four games Luck has been pressured on 40.8 percent of his drop backs compared to 27.1 percent in the first 10 games. That explains the drop in offensive efficiency.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 16 Predictions – Bleacher Report

I thought this came out as the best edition of the year. A look at why the Bengals need to stop being the Bungles and take care of Pittsburgh. The stat of the year candidate on Adrian Peterson. He has seven runs of 50+ yards in his last seven games alone. That’s as many as the Houston Texans have ever had (174 games), and as many as the Colts and Patriots have combined for in their last 412 games.

AD

 Apocalypse Now: Chicago Bears and the NFL’s Greatest Second-Half Collapses – Cold, Hard Football Facts

The Bears are who we thought they were, or are they? Once 7-1, the Bears are hoping to avoid becoming the fourth team since 1978 to start 7-1 and miss the playoffs. Included is a look at why the Bears have faltered, and which company they could be joining should they complete one of the NFL’s greatest second-half collapses. Anyone remember the 1993 Miami Dolphins or 1996 Washington Redskins?

2012 NFL Week 16 Predictions

The week is about to soon start with the Falcons/Lions, so let me make sure I get this in on time.

  • Falcons at Lions
  • Raiders at Panthers
  • Saints at Cowboys
  • Titans at Packers
  • Vikings at Texans
  • Patriots at Jaguars
  • Colts at Chiefs
  • Bills at Dolphins
  • Chargers at Jets
  • Redskins at Eagles
  • Bengals at Steelers
  • Rams at Buccaneers
  • Browns at Broncos
  • Bears at Cardinals
  • Giants at Ravens
  • 49ers at Seahawks

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Week 12: 10-6
  • Week 13: 8-8
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Season: 145-78-1 (.650)

Finally, here’s a holiday flashback to a year ago, when I wrote “The Night Before Christmas” as told by Joe Namath (Jets Edition). It is still topical enough, and I especially like this part about Mark Sanchez:

“I can’t win with him anymore, can’t you see?”
Well that’s obvious, but what did he want with me?
I couldn’t coach the kid to play quarterback right,
Look at my stats; they’re one hell of a sight!

Suddenly a gunshot rang through the air
It rattled my heart; gave me a good scare
Little Plaxico must have confused a bag of toys for tots,
With the stash of automatic handguns he just bought.

As we calmed down to discuss the Sanchez situation,
St. Rex continued to vent his frustrations.
“The kid can’t do this, the kid can’t do that!”
So why did you take him fifth in the draft?

It’s a little too late for a return, Jets.