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The winless Falcons aren’t good, but they’re not half bad either

In both games, you might find reason to believe the Falcons might be better than expected. You can also see why they aren’t good enough to be a winning team, at least not yet.

Coach Arthur Smith said: “Obviously it wasn’t perfect and we have to break through, but the one thing about our guys no matter what happened is we have a chance of winning the last game. We will continue to grow. You go through these things.

“It’s painful to lose like that, (by) possession, but we have the right mindset.”

ExploreFalcons’ Mykal Walker: ‘We have to win these games’

I can’t argue with that. I didn’t like Atlanta’s defensive plan of playing soft in pass coverage. Mariota had a few wayward throws that were caught. But the Falcons could have folded after losing the big lead to the Saints and then falling behind on Sunday. Instead, they kept coming to the Rams.

You can tell the Rams gave up too soon. Maybe they did. But it’s a tough case to make when the Falcons made big plays during the rally.

The home side’s lead looked secure even after the Falcons pulled the gap to 31-17. The game was down to 8:14 and the Falcons hadn’t stopped the Rams much. Then Troy Andersen blocked a punt that Lorenzo Carter returned 26 yards for a touchdown, Drake London converted the two-point conversion, and suddenly the Rams led by six points with five minutes remaining.

The Rams got the ball back with 4:57 left. On third and fourth, quarterback Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Cooper Kupp beyond the first down. Falcons cornerback Darren Hall hit the ball and collected it. Just like that, the Falcons were 37 yards from scoring a touchdown to complete the biggest comeback win in franchise history.

Mariota completed back-to-back passes to rookie London to get a first down on 21. On third down, he saw Edwards open up and drift into the end zone. The throw was too high. Mariota’s pass for Cordarrelle Patterson towards the end of the first half was also off target. Patterson tipped him over and Cobie Durant intercepted him for a 51-yard return to set up a Rams touchdown for a 21-3 halftime lead.

“Some things weren’t necessarily his fault,” Smith said of Mariota. “He made enough plays. He gave us a chance. »

Atlanta’s defense was a liability for most of the game. Coordinator Dean Pees said his group looked like a great defense for three quarters against the Saints. In Week 2, the Falcons couldn’t stop the Rams for three quarters except when Stafford threw the ball to them twice. The Falcons also got the takeout from Kupp and stopped the Rams before the blocked punt for a TD. Those plays weren’t enough to win because the Rams scored Mariota’s interception and engineered three long touchdowns against a yielding defense.

There have been games in which the Rams have shown they are simply better than the Falcons. No wonder many of them featured Kupp, the reigning AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year. But he wasn’t the only one hurting the Falcons. All of the Rams players who have run routes have found plenty of room to catch and run against Atlanta’s zone coverage.

Almost half of Stafford’s 272 passing yards were gained by his receivers after the catch.

“It’s football,” Falcons linebacker Mykal Walker said. “It’s give and take. We were playing zone. Thanks to them, they found (space) and exploited it. We just kept sitting in those areas (and) as we get closer and closer at the end, we start playing a bit more (man to man).

“The calls were great. We just need to execute better.

Smith said the Falcons had to “pick your poison” against the Rams and decided to focus on limiting their deep passes: “We didn’t make enough plays, but the game plan gave us enough ( occasions) and the guys kept gritting their teeth.”

Atlanta’s best chance to upset was to take advantage of Stafford’s tendency to make turnover-worthy throws. Stafford did it twice, both times when the Rams were on the run for scores. It didn’t matter because it was too easy for the Rams to move the ball when they weren’t giving it away.

The Falcons compounded the defensive problem with a few offensive errors beyond Mariota’s two interceptions. They were snappy on their first possession and moved the ball inside the red zone. A false start on Chris Lindstrom made him third and long. Then Bobby Wagner broke free on third down to drop Mariota for a 7-yard loss, followed by Younghoe Koo’s missed field goal try at 44 yards.

“It’s on me,” Mariota said of the missed block. “I have to do a better job of communicating at all levels.”

These types of errors explain why the Falcons are 0-2. After following up the collapse against the Saints with a fiery comeback attempt against the Rams, they have some hope that they can be better.