Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons are reeling, and after yet another loss, they find themselves out of the No. 6 spot in the NFC and simply a team “in the hunt.” The Falcons have dropped four straight games with three coming at home at the Georgia Dome. The Seattle Seahawks took over the No. 2 wildcard spot in the conference with a win Sunday and a 6-5 record that is the same as Atlanta’s, but Seattle owns the tiebreaker with a better showing against NFC opponents.
It’s been a sad downfall for the Falcons, who opened up the season a perfect 5-0. Now, after losing five of its last six, Atlanta is almost unrecognizable. Ryan is struggling. The defense isn’t doing enough to slow down opponents and playmakers are lacking offensively with Devonta Freeman on the shelf with a concussion.
As mediocre as the defense has been at times under first-year head coach Dan Quinn, it’s the offense with Ryan that has faltered more often than not. Ryan has lost three consecutive games at home for the first time in his career, and his four red zone interceptions are a league-high. He had none a season ago.
Against Minnesota on Sunday, Ryan threw one touchdown and two interceptions, including a red zone pick on a pass intended for tight end Jacob Tamme, which completely sailed on him. For the season, Ryan has 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as his touchdown percentage (3.7) is his lowest since his rookie season in 2008. He’s also fumbled the ball a career-high seven times with three of those being recovered by opposing teams.
“It starts with me,” Ryan said via AtlantaFalcons.com. “I’ve got to be better in terms of decision-making and knowing when to throw the ball away, cut our losses and kick the field goal. But we’ve got to really look in the mirror hard Monday and Tuesday before we get onto the practice field Wednesday and see what we can do differently to stop that from happening. For me, it starts with making great decisions, and I didn’t do a good job of that.”
Ryan hasn’t had much help offensively under first-year Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Wide receiver Julio Jones has caught 94 passes, which is 32 percent of the team’s passing offense. He has caught a team-leading six touchdowns but struggled against Minnesota, who held him under 60 receiving yards (5 catches, 56 yards) for the second time this season.
Jones has been dominant, topping 90 receiving yards in eight games this season. So, as much as Ryan leans on Jones in the passing attack, he still needs help outside of that. Roddy White has fallen off a cliff this season, Jacob Tamme has been average at tight end, and Leonard Hankerson has proven to be nothing more than a No. 3 wide receiver.
The Falcons owner Arthur Blank has backed his franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, but right now the team’s woes go even farther than the man under center. Ryan has been dreadful as of late, and that needs to change, but he can’t do it al. He hasn’t in the past and under a defensive-minded head coach in Quinn it most likely won’t anytime soon.
Atlanta has five games left on its schedule, including four NFC South matchups, two against Carolina and one apiece against Tampa Bay and New Orleans.
Ryan has to get his confidence back if they want a realistic shot of rallying back into the playoff conversation. This team is reeling, but we’ve seen how things can change at the drop of a hat in this league.