As the Falcons stagger into their bye week, we look back at their 1-4 start:
Week 1: Saints 23, Falcons 17
The Saints were whole again after the bounty scandal of 2012. The Falcons were looking beat their bitter NFC South rivals to start a season with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Falcons came up short at the end, a recurring theme this season. Running back Steven Jackson dropped a pass in the end zone on third down, and quarterback Matt Ryan’s fourth-down pass was tipped and intercepted to end the Falcons’ comeback bid.
The Falcons’ pass protection was a question mark before the season, and this game was the first indication that they have no answer. Ryan was sacked three times, hit four times and hurried 18 times on 43 drop backs.
Week 2: Falcons 31, Rams 24
The injuries started to accumulate for the Falcons in this game.
Five starters were out by halftime: defensive end Kroy Biermann, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, cornerback Asante Samuel, fullback Bradie Ewing and Jackson.
Biermann and Ewing are out for the season, Weatherspoon won’t be back until some time after the bye week and Samuel hasn’t been healthy all season. Left tackle Sam Baker played on a bad knee, but suffered a foot injury that would keep him out of the next game.
In spite of the injuries, the Falcons built leads of 21-0 and 24-3 and held on to win. Ryan, operating behind poor protection again, passed for 374 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Julio Jones set his regular-season career high with 182 yards receiving.
Week 3: Dolphins 27, Falcons 23
The would-be Super Bowl contenders were beaten by a young quarterback.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami’s second-year quarterback, beat the Falcons with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dion Sims with 38 seconds left. That capped a 13-play, 75 yard drive in which the Dolphins converted three third downs.
The Falcons were in position to win even with five starters out because of injury. They held the ball for 37-plus minutes, gained 377 yards to 285 for Miami and forced two turnovers. The Falcons led 20-10 in the third quarter and were up 23-20 on Matt Bryant’s field goal early in the fourth.
But Tannehill floated a pass to Sims over linebacker Stephen Nicholas for the victory.
Week 4: Patriots 30, Falcons 23
The Falcons got their first showcase game of the season, and a “Sunday Night Football” audience saw all of their issues on display.
The Falcons scored one touchdown on six trips inside New England’s 20-yard line. They could neither pressure Patriots quarterback Tom Brady nor cover his group of anonymous receivers. And another Falcons comeback attempt failed.
The Georgia Dome emptied after Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal put the Patriots up 30-13 with 6:18 to play. The Falcons — aided by a recovered onside kick and a Patriots fumble — rallied to score 10 points in a little more than three minutes.
The Falcons had a first-and-10 at the New England 13-yard line at the end. Two passes by Ryan fell incomplete and another gained only 3 yards. The last gasp, Ryan’s pass intended for Roddy White in the end zone, was batted away by Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.
Week 5: Jets 30, Falcons 28
This was the low point of the season so far for the Falcons, who lost to a mediocre Jets team on “Monday Night Football.”
The Falcons rallied to take a 28-27 lead on Jacquizz Rodgers’ touchdown run and Ryan’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Levine Toilolo. But Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith easily led his team 55 yards in less than two minutes to set up Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal.
Falcons fans still in the half-empty Georgia Dome booed their team as they had done several times during the night. It is the first three-game losing streak for the Falcons under coach Mike Smith.
The Falcons were listless in defeat. Smith appeared deflated in his postgame news conference. Safety William Moore said “it don’t feel right.”
“I dropped the ball. It wasn’t the easiest catch, but I’m not a person to make excuses. I expect to make the play.”
— Jackson after he dropped a potential winning touchdown pass at New Orleans
“I think that’s the mindset that everybody has. While you never want to see anybody go down, it’s part of football and that’s part of this game. It’s part of being a professional, too, in having yourself ready to go when things change. I thought our guys did a terrific job with that today. Nobody panicked; nobody blinked.”
— Ryan after several players left the Rams game with injuries.
“It’s becoming like a trend now. We have to find a way to keep our momentum going out there. We were moving the ball pretty good out there. We just have to be more consistent.”
— Falcons guard Justin Blaylock after the offense stalled in the loss to the Dolphins.
“No, I don’t believe (the lack of execution in the red zone) is a mental thing. I wish I could give you a concrete answer. I can’t at this point in time. It’s poor execution. We’ve got to look at everything we do down there, not only from the execution standpoint but schematically as well. As I said last week, I’m responsible for the way the team plays. We are 1-3. We’ve earned it.”
— Smith after the loss to the Patriots
“He’s a rookie, and we make him look like a 10-year veteran.”
— Moore on Jets quarterback Smith
“I think once we get out of this bye week and get a couple guys back that can really help us. Nothing against the guys that are out there right now, but starter guys. It’s just the nature of football. Starter guys, get them back and get back healthy. I’ve got to be confident. What am I going to do? I’m not going to sit here, and I don’t expect anyone else on this team to sit here, and feel sorry for ourselves that the season is over.”
— Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez on rebounding after the loss to the Jets
By the numbers
2 Touchdown catches this season for Toilolo, the third-string tight end
0 Touchdown catches this season for White, a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver
28 Rank of Falcons’ offensive line, among 32 teams, by statistical analysis website Pro Football Focus
6 Falcons’ NFL rank in yards per play
25 Falcons’ NFL rank in red-zone touchdown percentage