The Atlanta Falcons came out flat on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, falling behind 20-0 before ultimately losing 30-20. One of the biggest reasons for the loss were third-down failures on both sides of the ball, which really disappointed head coach Mike Smith (via Falcons.com):
Well, our third-down efficiency on both sides of the ball. I think the three field goals that they kicked were the only times that they were stopped on third down there in the red zone. We got some red zone stops, didn't force a punt in the first half, and the time of possession was so skewed that you really didn't get an opportunity to get going. Those were the things that are most disappointing now.
The Atlanta defense simply could not get off the field much of the day, allowing Cam Newton and the Carolina offense to convert on 9-of-15 third downs. Meanwhile, the normally potent Falcons offense only managed to convert 2-of-8 on third down.
Smith was very surprised at how poorly his team played, as the coach said the Falcons had a good week in practice. But Smith is not all that concerned and said the game should be a lesson to his team that they need to be ready to play every week:
Oh, it's a great teaching point in terms of - well, we've got to be playing our best football. We want to play our best football here in the fourth quarter. We didn't do it today. We've got three more opportunities to get playing at the level that we would like to be playing at.
Things will not get any easier for Atlanta next week when the New York Giants come to town in a bout between NFC heavyweights. At 11-2, the Falcons are in the drivers seat in the NFC, but another loss would make things really interesting.