London — These short takes are presented as a companion to the Falcons-Lions game column, which can be found here. The Lions somehow won 22-21.
1. A well-coached team doesn’t lose this game. I’m on the record (many times) as believing that Mike Smith is the best coach the Falcons have ever had, but the whiffs in clock management — at the end of both halves — and simple execution cannot be seen as anything other than a indictment of coaching. A 59-yard touchdown on third-and-25 on a play that bore a striking resemblance to the 74-yard pass caught by the Bears’ Alshon Jeffery two weeks ago. A terrible interception by Matt Ryan, who of all people should know better. A holding penalty that stopped the clock with 1:50 remaining when Detroit had no timeouts. A stirring first-half performance that yielded only an excruciating loss. As owner Arthur Blank said: “There’s just no way you lose that game.”
2. With a bye week at hand and his team 2-6, does Blank move to fire Smith? I can’t see it, nor do I think it should happen. (There’s no real precedent for an NFL team improving after a midseason coaching change.) I think Blank likes Smith and wants to give him every chance to right this, but my guess is that even the owner has come to wonder if this staff is capable of fixing things. The Falcons just played their best non-Tampa Bay half of the year and lost to an opponent that didn’t have Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush and that lost Nick Fairley in the first half. This was a terrible, terrible loss.
3. Apart from the outcome, how was the England experience? The atmosphere at Wembley was first-class. It didn’t feel like a game being played in a foreign county. It felt like a real game of (American) football in a real football stadium. “I wasn’t too thrilled about the food over here,” guard Justin Blalock said, “but everything else was nice.” And what of the crowd of 83,532, at least 55,000 of whom appeared to be rooting — at mostly the proper times in the proper way — for the Falcons? They were great, Blalock said. “I thought they just might get excited about the kicking game,” he said, smiling a pained smile.