3 fourth-quarter coaching mistakes cost the Falcons as win

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If you thought the fourth-quarter misery walked out the door with Dan Quinn, you were sadly mistaken.

It was another frustrating end for the Atlanta Falcons Sunday. How do they keep doing this? The Detroit Lions came to town and the Falcons had every reason not to lose this game. But more critical mistakes cost them in the end. After playing a rather great game for about three quarters, they fell apart again when it mattered most.

This outcome came down to three mistakes made in the fourth quarter.

These were two powerful offenses, but scoring was coming at a premium. After a dominating 13-play drive, the Falcons were at the Lions’ 13-yard line with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth. Atlanta was up 14-13. Why go for it? I appreciate the aggressiveness, but take the points. This is the sort of decision that gets praised when it works and criticized when it doesn’t. The aggressiveness worked in the first half when Atlanta went for it and ended up securing a touchdown because of it. But this was not the same situation. I get that the defense was on its heels, but this was a terrible mistake. Take the points.

The next critical moment wasn’t as much a mistake as it was a face-in-palm play. It came after Matt Prater missed what should have been a routine 46-yard field goal. That miss put some wind in the sails after a fantastic Detroit drive came up short. But Atlanta quickly lost that when Romeo Okwara shot off the edge to strip Matt Ryan. The gaff gave Prater another chance, and he doesn’t miss twice. Keep the football and the Falcons could have put the Lions away. At the very least, they could have flipped the field to force Detroit to make a drive. Instead, they allowed the Lions to take the lead.

This loss won’t generate the same national media attention, but this was another collapse. The Falcons had a win probability as high as 95 percent, but still managed to drop the ball. That’s because the Lions should have never had the football. Todd Gurley’s eyes got a too big when the Lions just let him walk into the end zone with just over a minute remaining. The Lions had no timeouts and this was their last-ditch effort. Gurley realized too late and their desperation move paid off.

Why were the Falcons doing anything other than dropping to a knee to run the clock down? Raheem Morris has to know the only play for the Lions would be to let him score and give Stafford, who has 29 fourth-quarter comebacks to his name, a chance to work some magic. This decision came back to bite Atlanta and it’s especially frustrating because it was avoidable.

Last week was fun, but that’s over. I was almost fooled into thinking this team could turn it around, but I just don’t know where the clutch gene is. Why can’t this team make that big play when it counts? This was frustrating for all the reasons that Chicago and Dallas were because Atlanta had no reason to lose this game. They have been their own worst enemy as they just continue to beat themselves.