By Mike Bell

Lost Season: This London game finally puts me over the edge.

Sunday’s loss in London is the kind of game that gets coaches fired.

It was so typical of the Falcons under Mike Smith in their 6-18 run since the 2012 NFC Championship Game. Opponents have outscored the Falcons 70-7 in the 4th quarter of the last 6 games and 85-38 in the second half of this current losing streak.

Up 21-0 with the ball on the Falcon 19 with 1:14 to play and 2 timeouts, Smitty takes it to the locker room. No killer instinct. Coaching scared, playing not to lose, instead of trying to get down field and make it a 24-0 lead. We take a knee.

If I had told you back at Falcons camp in August we’d beat the Saints in week 1, play the Bengals without AJ Green, The Vikings without AP, the Ravens without Ray Rice and the Lions without Megatron & Reggie Bush you’d think we’d be in first place right now. Or 4-4 at the worst right?

The Falcons rolled into Week 8 with a third string center, a third string right tackle and 4 lineman on season ending IR. While the decimation of the Falcons line is the worst I’ve seen in my 16 years being a Falcons fan, injuries are part of the game and every team we’ve played has had to deal with it. We have still found ourselves in a position to win games this season. And that’s what makes this year even more brutal.

The Lions had one play maker in Golden Tate… and we allow him to score a 59 yard TD on a 3rd and 25.

Despite the injuries… YOU WERE UP 21-0! As Arthur Blank said “there’s no way you lose that game”.

I’m a Falcon fan, I have been since I moved here and bought season tickets in 1998. I’ve always been a fan and supporter of Mike Smith. Smitty and GM Thomas Dimitroff brought stability and consistency to this franchise. But after missing the Super Bowl in 2012 it’s been all down hill and this coaching staff and management don’t know how to fix it.

Smitty is a class act and as always been gracious with me and my coworkers over the years. But over the past 2 seasons a number of nagging problems have shaken my confidence in him. In previous seasons the Falcons found a way to win despite Smith’s lack of consistency or logic when it came to strategy & clock management.

I’ve have tried to stick it out with Smitty even after every cliched and tired press conference, but you have to wonder if the team like you and me have started tuning him out.

The Falcons have won only 1 playoff game in 7 seasons because the same things that happen under Mike Smith in the regular season happen in January. The Falcons never play 4 quarters of Football. They never hold a lead. Other teams either make better adjustments or just come out in the 2nd half with more intensity and takes us out of our game.

This year despite the patchwork offensive line, the Falcons had a chance to win the Vikings, Giants & Bears games in the 4th quarter. When Ryan got the ball to his “play makers” they didn’t catch the ball. Sunday Ryan threw one of his worst picks as a pro.
Combine that with poor clock management, dropped passes and you get the worst regular season loss in Falcons history.

Then there’s the personnel decisions. The curious case of Antone Smith… damn near every time he touches the ball it’s a TD or a big catch and run. Apparently there is no way to get him more touches or find a way to get him the ball in space more than 5 times a game. And then there’s Kroy Biermann, once described as a Jack of all trades because of his multiple uses on defense… he’s more like an 8 of all trades, he does nothing especially well, least of all pass rush.

Falcon fans are fed up with the coaching staff’s inflexibility with the starting lineup and Smith and Dirk Koetter’s stubbornness in staying with Steven Jackson late in the game for his 3.7 yards per carry.

And then there’s the defense, which actually did a decent job in London. We just needed some heat on Mathew Stafford. Unfortunately Thomas Dimitroff doesn’t believe in pass rush.

That’s why Falcon fans have zero empathy for the GM. We all knew the offense was going to have to (in the words of Roddy White) score 30 points a game to win. Because the Falcons haven’t had a perennial pro bowl, impact type player on defense during the Thomas Dimitroff/Mike Smith era.

This year we were told the Falcons were gonna get tougher up front and stop the run by adding defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Chiefs retread Tyson Jackson… how’s that working out?

Statistically the Falcons have been in the bottom of the NFL in team defense the last 6 years. I don’t blame Mike Nolan, sure some of his schemes have looked desperate, but there’s only so many ways you can polish a turd.

The GM doesn’t understand defense, he hasn’t gone higher than a 4th round pick for a defensive end. His LB draft picks have been solid at best, not star players.

When given the opportunity to sign a Cliff Avril or Michael Bennett to beef up the pass rush he gets us Mr. Glass, Steven Jackson. You know who pulled the trigger on Avril & Bennett in 2013 free agency?… the Super Bowl Champ Seahawks.

I truly believe we missed our window (2010-2012), it’s just diminishing returns now. The NFC South is in shambles, Carolina at 3-4-1 has issues on defense, our nemesis the Saints (like us) can’t win on the road. But even if we could put together an 8-8 season a large part of the fan base would think it’s just postponing the inevitable. This business model isn’t built for the Falcons to win a Super Bowl.

If I was Arthur Blank I would send a message to the team and install a new head coach. You have 2 men on the team with head coaching experience. Mike Tice or Mike Nolan could step in. Or you could elevate Special Teams Coach Keith Armstrong to interim head coach. Shake things up, show the team and the fan base it cant go on like this anymore. In the off season replace the GM with someone who understands defensive football.

The Falcons wont be a reclamation project for the next GM and head coach, you have skilled position players and Matt Ryan in his prime. All this team requires is a fresh pair of eyes in the front office,

But if the collapse in London won’t get Arthur Blank to make sweeping changes… I guess nothing will.