If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not an Atlanta Falcons fan.
This is because you’re a smart person who wants to get some pleasure out of your Sunday entertainment, so you cheer for one of the other 31 teams.
That’s logical. What’s illogical is being a Falcons fan. If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I am a Falcons fan, and I hate it.
Every season this team finds new and stupid ways to lose games. It’s a law of nature, like the sun rising in the east or gravity.
On Sunday, Atlanta lost 37-36 at home to the Cincinnati Bengals to drop their record to 1-3. The loss makes them the first team since the 1966 New York Giants to score at least 36 points in consecutive games and lose both of them. Matt Ryan also became the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 350 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in consecutive games – and lose both.
See? New, and stupid. Also very painful.
This loss got me thinking. Since the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan, what have the very dumbest losses been? The lowest of the low. The ones only Atlanta could lose.
These losses are not a coincidence. They aren’t stemming from one thing that is happening over and over and can be corrected. It’s not just a string of bad luck.
They come in all shapes and sizes. And these are just the worst ones since 2008. There are four other decades’ worth of very similar, equally dumb, exactly ridiculous losses just like these to draw from.
I could have made this a list of the 100 dumbest Falcons losses without breaking a sweat.
Here we go.
20. 2009 @ New York Giants
Battling back from a 14 point deficit with six minutes remaining on the road against Eli Manning and the Giants at the peak of their powers was quite an achievement for a very young Matt Ryan. It didn’t matter though, because the Falcons lost the overtime coin toss (this will become a theme) and the defense that had battled hard the entire fourth quarter completely fell apart. It took New York less than four minutes to march down the field and get a game-winning field goal from Lawrence Tynes.
19. 2013 vs. New Orleans Saints
On paper, this Thursday Night Football matchup between the 8-2 Saints and 2-8 Falcons looked like no contest. But the Falcons managed to tease their fans by staying competitive against a vastly superior team. Atlanta trailed 17-13 when they got the ball with four minutes to go in the third quarter. Matt Ryan drove the team into the red zone before Darius Johnson fumbled.
The Falcons were all the way back at their own three next time they got the ball, but they miraculously drive down to the Saints 34 with two minutes left, still down by four.
They elected to kick a field goal. Yeah, they kicked a field goal down by four with two minutes left. It missed. The Falcons didn’t get the ball back until there were five seconds remaining.
18. 2013 @ Miami Dolphins
The 2013 Miami Dolphins were the most average football team ever. They went 8-8. They were 4-4 at home and 4-4 on the road. This team was completely forgettable, other than one game where they overcame a double-digit second half deficit to beat the Falcons. The winning touchdown was scored with a mere 38 seconds remaining.
17. 2015 vs. Indianapolis Colts
Atlanta had a 21-7 lead in the final minute of the third quarter on Andrew Luck and the Colts, but it was down to 21-14 when the Falcons got the ball at their own one-yard line in the fourth.
If you have the ball one yard from your own goal line in a very tight fourth quarter game, you should be careful. A mistake could be fatal. Kyle Shanahan opted for the “risky short pass over the middle” strategy. It didn’t work. D’Qwell Jackson had a six-yard pick six to tie the game, and the Colts ended up winning 24-21.
Just for good measure, the game-sealing interception was made by Colts tight end Colby Fleener. A tight end had the game-clinching interception. Seriously.
16. 2013 vs. New York Jets
If Geno Smith walks into your stadium on Monday Night Football and beats you by driving his team 54 yards down the field in under two minutes to allow his kicker to kick a game-winning field goal as time expires, your franchise has a problem. You’re also the Falcons.
15. 2018 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
It’s hard to judge this game because of recency bias, but I think 15th is fair. Cincinnati drove 73 yards on 16 plays (with two fourth-and-long conversions in the process) to win the game on an A.J. Green touchdown with seven seconds left.
14. 2011 vs. New Orleans Saints
This is the part where the dumbness of these losses really ramps up.
So picture this. You’re in sudden death overtime against Drew Brees, a future Hall of Famer. It’s a massive November game, with the winner taking first place in the division. Brees has had a good day, but your defense has done pretty well all things considered, holding the Saints to 23 points. The last two times the Saints have had the ball, they punted. It’s 4th and 1 at your own 29.
If you’re a normal team, you punt here and trust your in form defense to get another stop. If you’re the Falcons, you go for it, fail to get one yard, and throw away the game as the Saints hit their chip shot field goal to win 26-23.
13. 2016 vs. San Diego Chargers
If you have a 17 point lead at home against a sputtering team who has lost three of their last four games, that lead is probably safe. But the Falcons defied the odds, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Calling a pass play on first down with three minutes remaining when you should be trying to bleed the clock shockingly didn’t work, and Matt Ryan was picked off.
San Diego won in overtime, but Atlanta did have a chance to win at the end of regulation before it got to that point with a Matt Bryant field goal.
It hit the upright.
12. 2018 vs. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees has over 70,000 career passing yards, but only 742 rushing yards in 18 seasons. As great as he is, he might be the slowest quarterback in the league. This is the 18th year of his career, and in only one of those (2013) has he had more than two rushing touchdowns the entire season.
Of course, logic goes out the window against the Falcons. He rushed for the game-tying and game-winning touchdowns in the 43-37 Saints overtime win (yes, the Falcons lost the overtime coin toss).
Atlanta receiver Calvin Ridley had three receiving touchdowns in the game for the first time in his career, Matt Ryan had five touchdown passes in a game for the first time in his career, and he broke Joe Montana’s all-time record for most touchdown passes against the Saints. None of it mattered though because the Falcons Falconed all over the place.
11. 2014 @ Minnesota Vikings
Teams lose to rookie quarterbacks all the time. It happens. Losing to a quarterback in his first career start is a little rarer, but it does occur. Allowing said rookie quarterback to finish the game with 344 yards is rough. Plenty of football teams blow fourth-quarter leads as well.
But doing all four of those things in the same game? That’s Falcons.
10. 2017 vs. Miami Dolphins
Moving into the top half, and things looked great at the start. The Falcons led Miami 17-0, and the Dolphins had turnover machine Jay Cutler at quarterback. What kind of a team blows a three-possession lead at home to Jay Cutler?
The Atlanta kind. What, did you expect the Falcons to simply take care of business vs. a weak opponent?
9. 2010 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Having to face the Steelers on the road in the first game of the 2010 season was a tough draw, but when Ben Roethlisberger was suspended, Atlanta became heavy favorites. Pittsburgh’s quarterback that day was Dennis Dixon, who is now retired and only appeared in four games during his career.
In fact, that game against Atlanta was the only game of his entire career where he was the quarterback who played the majority of the snaps. Literally the only one.
I’m sure you know what happened. Pittsburgh won 15-9 in overtime, and Dixon had an impressive 236 passing yards. Would that have happened against any team other than Atlanta? Probably not.
8. 2012 Wild Card Round @ New York Giants
The final score was 24-2. The Atlanta Falcons only scored two points in a playoff game.
In a playoff game.
7. 2018 Divisional Round @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Falcons got a golden opportunity to reach their second consecutive NFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history. All they had to do was beat career backup quarterback Nick Foles.
That play is a perfect representation of how the game went. Really, it’s a perfect representation of the last 53 years of Falcons football. The ball hit his knee, cannoned into the air, and bounced straight in the arms of an Eagle.
That play helped the Eagles get a field goal, and they ended up winning 15-10. Atlanta came two yards short of winning the game, but the Eagles made a goal line stand in the dying seconds because Falcons fans can’t have nice things.
6. 2014 vs. Detroit Lions (Wembley Stadium)
The Falcons took their failures to an international scale when they played the Lions in London. The Falcons led 21-0 at halftime, and I’m sure 90,000 British fans were disappointed that the game the NFL chose to send to them was a dud.
But then the Lions picked up a field goal. And then a touchdown. Followed by another field goal. Another touchdown cut the lead to 21-19, but the Lions went for two and failed. Atlanta had the lead, and England had a good game!
It came down to a 43-yard field goal for Detroit with two seconds remaining. It sailed wide right. Falcons win!
But wait, there’s a flag down. The flag was a delay of game penalty on the Lions, meaning the play didn’t count. Detroit got another chance at the field goal from five yards further back, but of course this time Matt Prater nailed it.
The Falcons lost because their opponent committed a penalty.
5. 2014 vs. Cleveland Browns
28 days after that absurd loss to the Lions, the Falcons one-upped themselves. Atlanta trailed 23-21 with 58 seconds left (which is embarrassing enough against the Browns), with a strong drive working at the Cleveland 35.
A smart team would try to bleed the clock and attempt a winning field goal with no time left to make sure the Browns didn’t get the ball back.
But then Mike Smith called timeout. Now, you might be asking why Atlanta’s coach would call timeout to save time for his opponent to score against the Falcons. I would respond to that by saying what I have this whole time. The Falcons are a perpetually dumb franchise.
That timeout saved Cleveland a timeout, and they went into their final drive with three instead of two. They used the time Atlanta saved for them to kick the winning field goal with no time left, handing the Falcons a humiliating loss.
After the game, Smith was asked about his clock management.
“They would’ve used the timeout probably if we hadn’t” he responded, seeming to not get that the other team using a timeout would have been a good thing for the Falcons.
Peak Falconing. Yet it’s still barely in the top five dumbest Falcons losses.
4. 2013 NFC Championship Game vs. San Francisco 49ers
If you have a 24-7 lead at home with your first trip to the Super Bowl in 14 years on the line, don’t blow it. Just hold the lead and go to the Super Bowl. It’s so simple.*
*It’s not that simple. The Falcons lost 28-24.
3. 2015 @ San Francisco 49ers
Remember #19 on this list, when the Falcons kicked a field goal down 17-13 with two minutes left at the 34-yard line?
In 2015 they did the exact same thing, but this one was way worse. First of all, that scenario in #19 was a fourth and 15. The Falcons would’ve needed 15 yards to extend the game. This one was fourth and goal.
FROM THE ONE.
Atlanta was down four points. They needed to move the ball 36 inches (not yards, INCHES) to score six points. Instead, they opted for a three-point play.
They lost by one.
2. 2016 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
In the second quarter of this game, the Falcons had the ball at the 2 but had to settle for a field goal. They also threw a pick-six. In the third quarter, they allowed a 55-yard fake punt touchdown run. All of those things are pretty dumb.
None of it compared to what happened to the Falcons in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta trailed 27-22, and scored a touchdown with 4:32 left to go up 28-27. As all football teams would in this situation, they went for a two-point conversion to go up by three points so a Kansas City field goal could only tie them.
But what the Falcons failed to take into account was that they are the Falcons, and the single most absurd thing you could possibly think of would happen to them.
The two-point conversion pass was intercepted, and returned 98 yards the other way for two Kansas City points. The Chiefs held on to the ball and won 29-28.
The Falcons lost this game as a result of scoring the game-winning touchdown.
- 2017 Super Bowl
You knew this was coming. This may come as a surprise to you after reading all of this silliness, but the Falcons have never won the Super Bowl in their over half-century history. Ever.
In fact, the only franchise older than the Falcons who have never won a championship in any major professional sport is baseball’s Texas Rangers.
Atlanta had a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter. They had a 28-12 lead with seven minutes left. A 28-20 lead with 90 seconds to go.
None of them held up. The Falcons lost the Super Bowl in overtime. After losing the coin toss, of course.
The sun rises in the east, things that come up must come down, and the Falcons will continue to torture their fans by losing dumb games.