Falcons coach Arthur Smith’s job security in question after 9-7 loss to the NFL’s worst team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Arthur Smith’s job security is in question after the Atlanta Falcons squandered a lead Sunday and lost to the NFL’s worst team.

The Falcons suffered an untimely, if not embarrassing, 9-7 defeat to the Carolina Panthers (2-12) on a last-second field goal by Eddy Pineiro, knocking them out of a three-way tie for first place with New Orleans and Tampa Bay in the NFC South.

Eight days ago, the Falcons sat alone atop the division.

But costly back-to-back losses to division foes Tampa Bay and Carolina have left the Falcons in a precarious position — one game behind the Buccaneers and Saints with three games remaining.

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Tampa Bay and New Orleans both won on Sunday to get to 7-7.

The Falcons, who went 7-10 in each of Smith’s first two seasons, are 6-8 this season leading to speculation about whether owner Arthur Blank will make a change if the team fails to make the postseason.

“There’s consequences when you lose so these are natural questions, right?” Smith said during a postgame news conference. “So it’s NFL 101. The job is to win games.”

When asked if he’s been informed about his future, he replied, “Nothing like the State of the Union. Every day, you go in there and you try the best you can at your job. And then that’s all we work on, is improving and trying to win games.”

Three NFL head coaches have already been fired this season — Frank Reich of the Panthers, Josh McDaniels of the Raiders and Brandon Staley of the Chargers.

Smith said he has a ton of self-confidence, and isn’t giving up on his team.

“Your job is to win games and to get into the playoffs,” Smith said. “We still have that opportunity.”


Smith’s plan moving forward could include another quarterback change.

He was non-committal when asked directly whether Desmond Ridder, who had a costly interception with 7 1/2 minutes remaining that ultimately led to Pineiro’s winning kick, will start next week against the Indianapolis Colts.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Smith said, adding that the team will continue to evaluate things.

Smith benched Ridder earlier this season for Taylor Heinicke, but then went back to the 2022 third-round draft pick.

“Make sure we have the right plan and make the right decision that’s in the best interest of this team to get back in the win column,” Smith said of his personnel plans.

Smith pointed directly to second-half turnovers by Ridder and running back Bijan Robinson, which led to two field goals, as a big reason for the loss. Robinson, the team’s first-round draft pick, didn’t see much action after his fumble.

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“The thing that hurts us the most, clearly, is the turnovers,” Smith said. “That’s not going to change in the NFL. There’s a lot of things you can pick apart but that hurt us.”

After hosting the Colts in their home finale on Christmas Eve, the Falcons finish the season on the road at Chicago and New Orleans.

“When you’re coming off two close losses like that in the division, a lot changes in eight days,” Smith said. “But we’ve still got three more. We’ve got to find a way. We’ve got a lot going on. We did it to ourselves. We’ve got get back in there and find a way to beat Indy.”