The Falcons survive a frightful finish and exit saying, ‘Ho, ho, ho’

In the time I’ve been tracking the Falcons, that Christmas Eve game remains among the bleakest of tableaus. Thirty-two years and two days later, the Lions and Falcons met again in this city. This was, I’m happy to report, a sunnier occasion.

Though Football Outsiders’ analytics continue to rate the Falcons as the NFL’s worst team, their record insists they’re not. They arrived at Boxing Day, as it’s known across the pond, at 6-8. They still hold out hope of making the playoffs. Among the league’s bantamweights, the Falcons have held their own. The Lions’ only near-peer is the Jacksonville Jaguars, about whom we say no more. Also of note: Detroit’s No. 1 quarterback, Jared Goff, was on the COVID list, meaning that Tim Boyle, an undrafted free agent, would be making his second pro start

(On Feb. 3, 2019, Goff started a Super Bowl in this building. His path since has been no stairway to heaven. And here we wind on down the road.)

This was the sort of games the 2021 Falcon have gotten skilled at winning, often on a field goal at the end. As settings goes, this wasn’t awful. The sun was shining. The famous retractable roof was indeed retracted. Mercedes-Benz Stadium was more than half-full. The game itself was halfway decent, though it didn’t start that way.

Matt Ryan was sacked three times on the Falcons’ first series. (By the 2-11-1 Lions, we emphasize.) The…

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