INSIDE SCOOP

Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 22, 2018 at 1:34 am.

Falcons keep fighting despite close losses

The Atlanta Falcons suffered another gut-wrenching loss on Sunday. It’s something to which they have grown accustomed, losing on the last play of the game for the third time this season.

But with the rival New Orleans Saints waiting for a Thursday night game, there’s no time for self pity, especially if Atlanta wants to keep its razor-thin playoff hopes alive.

“I think the opponent we’re going against, the stage that it’s on, makes it pretty easy to be able to turn around quickly and put this one behind us,” Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan said.

The Saints are 9-1 and have won nine straight after Sunday’s 48-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints beat Atlanta 43-37 in overtime in the third week of the season.

Atlanta (4-6) cannot afford to lose any of its final six games and have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. Optimists point out that Green Bay pulled off the same trick two years ago and reached the NFC Championship game – where they lost to the Falcons. Realists understand a 10-6 record is no guarantee of even making the playoffs.

Tackle Jake Matthews said the Falcons must win the game. Period.

“We’ve got to win,” Matthews said. “We just have to prepare well this week. We aren’t going to drink some magic potion and it’s going to happen. We have to take what we do during the week and execute better during the game because we have a good game plan and have good things going at times. We just have to do it more consistently and finish more drives.”

Cornerback Robert Alford said, “At the end of the day it’s going to push you. With the guys in this room, it’s going to push us to greater things.”

“Whether it’s easier or harder, it doesn’t matter,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “We have to go back to work and have got to play on Thursday.”

Ryan said it would be important to keep the team’s young players focused for the final push.

“You have to stay on them, too,” Ryan said. “You just have to say, ‘No, listen, we are done with yesterday.’ We learn from it and we get to work and start to prepare. (Head coach) Dan (Quinn) always sets up a really good schedule for us on Thursday games to get us ready to go and that will be the case this week as well.”
SERIES HISTORY: 99th regular-season meeting. Falcons lead series, 51-47. Saints have won the last two meetings, including a 43-37 overtime victory in Atlanta in Week 3.