Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 319 yards with two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. That’s the extent of what went right for the Atlanta Falcons Monday night in their 30-28 loss to the visiting New York Jets.
The Falcons still had trouble moving the ball in the red zone and in short-yardage situations, the offensive line offered little protection for Ryan, the defensive front seven got little to no pressure on Jets quarterback Geno Smith, and punter Matt Bosher was forced to make two special-teams tackles to save touchdowns.
“I saw that there were some things we need to continue to work at, and there were some new things that popped up,” said head coach Mike Smith after his team didn’t seem to turn any corners in fixing the issues that have plagued this team through its first five games.
With the loss, Atlanta fell to 1-4 on the season. It’s the first time the Falcons have lost three games in a row in the Mike Smith era. It’s just the second time since Smith arrived in 2008 that this team will enter its bye week after being handed a loss. And it’s the only time it will endure a bye week with a losing record.
As if the losing record isn’t bad enough, the Falcons are looking up at the New Orleans Saints with a perfect 5-0 record.
Forget about the Super Bowl. Forget about catching the Saints and winning the NFC South. This Falcons team should forget about the playoffs too. This team is nowhere good enough to think about the postseason.
Can the Falcons turn things around?
The Falcons' four losses have been by a combined 19 points, and none by more than seven. While that should give some hope, it’s really more of a correction from last season.
In 2012, the Falcons were the come-from-behind kings. All these close games the Falcons are losing now, they won last season. Including the playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta won eight games last season by a touchdown or less. This season, they can’t buy one, it seems.
There’s no easy answer to the question why.
Ryan tried after the game to put his finger on why this team has trouble pulling out games while last year’s squad didn’t. He seemed flabbergasted.
“We haven’t scored as much as we’ve needed to, and we’ve moved the ball effectively,” said Ryan. “We just need to make those three or four plays during the game that will change the outcome for us.”
He didn't say as much, but Ryan had to be thinking about the final play of the first half as one of those “three or four” that needed to go Atlanta’s way.
On 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 0:01 on the clock, Atlanta brought in a power formation, and Ryan handed the ball to running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
He was stopped for no gain, and the Falcons left the field behind 17-7.
No one questioned Smith’s decision to try for the touchdown. But his play call was troubling. Why do the Falcons insist on trying to power the ball into the end zone? This team wasn’t built for that, and its record on short-yardage plays is proof.
Smith is not only in uncharted territory with his team’s 1-4 record, but he's about to be second-guessed on play calls, strategy and even preparing his team. The upcoming bye week and prep week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is going to be rough for Smith.
While his offense isn’t scoring like it should, the defense is absolutely abysmal.
The Jets' rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, found tight end Jeff Cumberland on a 47-yard connection in the second quarter. That play made eight so far this season of 40 yards or more that Atlanta has given up.
And tackling is starting to become an issue again.
Atlanta’s defense is giving up way too many big plays, it’s having trouble tackling, and there are very few moments when the opposing quarterback is under any serious pressure.
With an offense that isn’t scoring like it should and a defense that’s void of anything terribly positive, how can Atlanta possibly bounce back to make it into the playoffs?
It’s likely going to take at least 10 wins to punch a ticket into the postseason. That means the Falcons need nine wins. With 11 games left on the schedule, that’s a tough task, especially with teams like Seattle, the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers and the Saints still ahead.
It actually seems downright impossible.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.