By Matthew Asher
The old football adage of “Any Given Sunday” appeared to be right on during the start of the Falcons/Lions game in London. For the first thirty minutes, the Atlanta Falcons looked like world beaters. Then came the second half and everything changed as the Falcons were shut out by the Lions and lost on the final play of the game 22-21. So while Atlanta finally gets a much needed bye week, the big question for the next two weeks will be if this is Mike Smith’s last season coaching the Falcons.
Atlanta in the first half gets an A
On the defensive side of the ball, Atlanta shut down Detroit’s offense. Matt Stafford completed just 9 of 20 passes for 85 yards and one interception. The longest completion was just 15 yards. As a team the Lions ran 7 times for only 18 yards including a lost fumble. Detroit never got near the Red Zone and didn’t even attempt a field goal.
The Atlanta offense was just as efficient as their defense. Matt Ryan completed 14 of his 17 pass attempts for 160 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He spread the ball around to 7 different Falcons. Their backs picked up 51 yards of the ground. Steven Jackson did the majority of the damage with 11 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown to give Atlanta a 21-0 lead going into halftime. Then came the second half and everything changed.
Atlanta in the second half gets a D-
Oh to have been a fly on the wall in the Lions locker room during halftime or the Falcons locker room after the game. The two halves were like night and day for both teams. Atlanta gave up 22 points, including a last-second field goal, stretching their current losing streak to five games.
On offense the Falcons couldn’t do anything right. Ryan completed just 6 of his 10 passes in the second half for 68 yards, no touchdowns and one interception that was returned 45 yards to the Atlanta 7 yard line near the end of the third quarter. Detroit converted that turnover into a field goal, thus bringing the Lions within 8 points.
The Falcons defense was equally ineffective. Detroit gained more than 260 yards in the second half. The one bright spot was Atlanta’s red zone and goal-to-go defense as the Lions converted just 1 of 3 attempts in both departments. However, the two failed attempts still resulted in two field goals, meaning another 6 points surrendered.
Atlanta’s secondary gets an F
Of the 262 total yards Detroit gained in the second half,their quarterback was responsible for the lion’s share (pun not intended) of them as Stafford completed 15 of 27 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half. The longest pass of the second half was a 59-yard bomb to Golden Tate for a touchdown on a 3rd and 25 yard play. That was not a typo. 3rd and 25. So much for limiting the explosive plays Smitty spoke about last week.
As mentioned earlier, Atlanta now has a week off before their next game. If there isn’t some serious soul searching about how to right the ship, then it’s a safe bet that Smitty will be looking for a new job by the end of this season. Can the Falcons #RiseUp? Because realistically they would have to win at least 7 of their final 8 games if they want a chance to make the playoffs this season.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.