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Steve Sarkisian sank the Falcons with NFL Week 7’s biggest coaching mistake

The Falcons rolled over and died on Sunday Night Football.

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Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons limped into Gillette Stadium with a two-game losing streak, following a blown 17-0 lead against the Miami Dolphins. This weekend, they faced the New England Patriots in a rematch of the most infamous blown lead in NFL history. But they had a chance to perhaps turn things around against a bad Patriots defense and get their season back on track.

None of that happened, and the Falcons didn’t even get the luxury of a lead to blow this time. Instead, the offense was lifeless on a foggy field and the Patriots boatraced them in a Sunday Night Football snoozer.

Plenty of blame has been placed on offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, and with good reason. It’s kind of baffling that an offense with Matt Ryan (the reigning MVP), Devonta Freeman (who just signed a big contract extension in August), and Julio Jones (Julio Jones!) looks this lost on the field. One play in particular exemplified the Falcons’ offensive dysfunction, leading off my biggest coaching mistakes of Week 7.

With the Falcons trailing, 20-0, late in the third quarter, Ryan and the offense finally showed signs of life, getting down to the Patriots’ 1-yard line. They faced a fourth-and-1, and going for it is the obvious call here. Nobody would be impressed by Atlanta turning a 20-0 score into 20-3. They could try punching it in with Freeman, who’s still pretty good, the last time I checked. They could even set up a play for Jones, which is a crazy notion, but that might work.

Instead, Sarkisian apparently forgot that he’s not coaching in the Pac-12 anymore and dialed up an end-around to Taylor Gabriel. You could hear the Price is Right sad trombone music playing from the moment the ball is snapped:

No points. Any shot of Atlanta getting back in the game died on that play. The Patriots sat on the ball and got out of there with a 23-7 win, leaving the 4-3 Falcons with more questions than answers halfway through the season.

It’s a pretty demoralizing loss, and Sarkisian is already catching heat for his play calling. What looked like a strange hire at the time — Sarkisian hasn’t coached at the NFL level since 2004, when he was a quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders — is shaping up to be a full-blown disaster.

We knew the Falcons’ offense would take a step back from 2016’s historic levels, but this is just not acceptable with the talent on hand. Dan Quinn has some tough decisions to make over the coming weeks.

So the Falcons had the biggest coaching mistake of Week 7, but there were plenty more errors on a strange NFL Sunday. Let’s take these guys down the walk of shame.

Chuck Pagano does a Pagano thing again

Pagano probably sealed his fate when the Indianapolis Colts got shut out by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’ll almost certainly be fired on Black Monday, if not sooner, but as long as he’s still around he’s good for a real head-scratcher most weeks.

Here’s a play the Colts ran on fourth-and-2, coming out of a timeout. Pagano and his staff had time to talk about the play and go over their best options, but apparently even that’s too hard for them. Via the Indy Star:

“It wasn’t designed to happen the way it happened,” Pagano said. “It’s on me. It wasn’t (Brissett). We didn’t get the right play in. There was confusion. The kid tried to do the best he could.”

This is the final result:

After breaking down the tape and crunching the numbers, here’s my thorough analysis of Jacoby Brissett’s sneak attempt:

At 2-5, the Colts’ season is pretty much done and dusted, to the point where they basically stopped pretending that Andrew Luck will come back. Maybe their next head coach can come up with more convincing plays out of a timeout.

The Bengals apparently forgot Joe Mixon exists

Mixon was having a pretty nice game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, finishing the first half with seven carries for 48 yards and looking a good sight better than Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard. The Bengals were down six points at halftime, but they were hanging in there.

How would they use Mixon in the second half as they try to pull off the road upset?

Oh. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Bengals had zero points in the second half as Pittsburgh rolled.

It was a nice couple of weeks, but we can safely say that Marvin Lewis’ Hot Seat Watch is back on. The Steelers now have a stranglehold on the AFC North.

John Fox kills the game of football

Mitchell Trubisky completed four passes all day. The Chicago Bears attempted seven passes all day. Stuff like this happened:


The worst part is that the Bears still won with two defensive touchdowns, ensuring that this will continue. The Carolina Panthers should take a long, hard look in the mirror after that performance.

Hey, speaking of the Panthers

Ron Rivera punted from the Bears’ 38-yard line in the fourth quarter, down 17-3.

Imagine a hundred sports writers at a hundred laptops, quietly deleting their “Panthers are back” takes from two weeks ago.

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