GLENDALE, Ariz. — Matt Bryant snatched his helmet off in agony. He rubbed his head in dismay and stared at the ground in disbelief.
The 44-year-old veteran kicker’s missed extra point attempt after a Devonta Freeman 12-yard touchdown reception from Matt Ryan was a microcosm of how grueling this season has been for the Atlanta Falcons. Nothing has gone their way, even when things appeared to be on the up and up.
Bryant pulled the kick wide left with less than two minutes remaining, allowing the Cardinals to maintain a 34-33 lead instead of giving the Falcons a chance to tie and maybe win the game. The Falcons find themselves at 1-5 and in the midst of a four-game losing streak, with back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks to come.
There will be plenty of questions, including about Bryant and his future. The Falcons showed more fight than they have in weeks on Sunday. But it didn’t matter in the end.
The defense made key second-half stops but made Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray look like a perennial All-Pro in a flawless first half. Ryan and the offense scored 23 points in the second half, but scoring only 10 before halftime hurt. Once again, penalties were a factor.
But when a guy as a reliable as Bryant misses such an easy attempt — the new holder, Matt Schaub, didn’t appear to be the one to blame — you know this just isn’t the Falcons’ season. Entering today, Bryant was 56-of-56 on extra point tries when trailing by exactly one point.
Gut-wrenching: That’s the best way to describe the final outcome, based on how the Falcons played in the second half after a 20-10 halftime deficit.
Buy/sell on a breakout performance: You have to buy Freeman having a big game with 19 carries for 88 yards on the ground and two touchdown receptions. Freeman had 22 touches after offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter promised to get him more involved. Freeman made some nice cuts and showed his great vision. It’s too bad the season might not be salvageable even if he gets his groove back.
QB breakdown: Ryan started the game well. The Falcons obviously wanted to change things up to jump-start the offense, so they won the coin toss and elected to receive. Ryan responded by marching his team for a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard TD to Calvin Ridley. Ryan completed 30 of 36 passes for 356 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He had two 100-yard receivers in Austin Hooper (8-for-117) and Julio Jones (8-for-108). But it didn’t matter. The Falcons are 1-5.