The Falcons (1-3) face the last of three consecutive AFC East opponents with a game against the New York Jets (2-2) Monday night at the Georgia Dome.
The Jets suffered a 38-13 defeat at Tennessee on Sunday. They own victories against the Buccaneers and Bills and a loss against the Patriots.
There are three subplots:
- Red zone woes: The Falcons managed one touchdown in six trips inside the 20-yard line in a 30-23 defeat to the Patriots on Sunday night at the Georgia Dome. Coach Mike Smith said the problems included breakdowns in pass protection, poor routes and drops by receivers, and missed throws by quarterback Matt Ryan.
- Protection issues: The Falcons allowed just two sacks against the Patriots but, according to Pro Football Focus, the Patriots pressured Ryan 15 times and hit him twice in 60 drop-backs. For the season, Ryan has been sacked six times, hit 16 times and hurried 58 times. Smith said against the Patriots, the offensive line had its best pass-protection game of the season.
- Sticking with Smith: Jets coach Rex Ryan told New York reporters that rookie quarterback Geno Smith would keep his staring job after he had four turnovers in the loss to the Titans. Smith had two interceptions and two fumbles against the Titans to bring his season turnover total to 11, tied with Giants quarterback Eli Manning for most in the NFL. Incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez is set for shoulder surgery and Matt Simms and Brady Quinn are New York’s other quarterbacks.
“Atlanta has to be looking at themselves and the mistakes that they made. It seems like in the big games, when they play these contending teams, they get out of their comfort zone and try to do too much. They have to settle down. They can get back in this and be a playoff team, but they have got to start winning these games against contenders.”
— NBC “Football Night in America” analyst Tony Dungy
By the numbers
Plays of 40 yards or more allowed by the Falcons against the Patriots.
Second-half scoring margin by Falcons in the last six games (including playoffs).
Percentage of touchdowns scored by the Falcons in 18 red-zone possessions, ranked 28th out of 32 teams.
Todd McClure — @ToddMcclure62
Retired Falcons center
“Ok I just need to let everyone know because I keep getting hammered about not coming back. I wanted to play this year.”
“Let me be a little more clear. They did not want me back.”
Brian Finneran — @BFinn86
Retired Falcons wide receiver
“Wow!! Matt struggled to turn his shoulders and make that throw! FG better than 0! Looks desperate. Something is not right.”
“We have to be brutally honest with each other. When you win, the head coach and the quarterback probably get too much of the credit and when you lose, they get the lion’s share of the blame.” — Falcons coach Mike Smith on discussing Matt Ryan’s sub-par game with him.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win and that’s important, but there were two sacks so we need to get rid of those. It’s our job to keep Matt clean. Any time he feels pressure, we’re not going to get the best throw off. So we need to protect a little bit better.” — Falcons center Peter Konz.
Reality check: Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez had a career night on Sunday, which for him means adding to the numbers that will one day put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But it didn’t matter. The Falcons lost. Now they are 1-3 in what will be Gonzalez’s 17th and final season, a season he agreed to play after coach Mike Smith allowed him to skip the entire offseason program and three weeks of training camp.
“This isn’t how I envisioned it at all,” Gonzalez said. “Come on. It’s not supposed to be this way as far as I’m concerned. But it is. This is reality. We are 1-3 and it’s gut-check time. We have to go out there and get it done.”
Gonzalez did his part against the Patriots with 12 catches for a career-high 149 yards with two touchdowns. Gonzalez’s previous high for yards was 147, recorded for the Chiefs at New England in 2000.
Holmes benched: After offensive tackle Lamar Holmes faltered in the first three games, the Falcons finally saw enough. Veteran Jeremy Trueblood replaced Holmes as the starter at right tackle against the Patriots.
The Falcons entered training camp short on experienced offensive linemen. Holmes struggled at right tackle during the exhibition season but the Falcons waited until the eve of the regular season to sign Trueblood.
Holmes, Atlanta’s third-round draft pick in 2012, said he’s still confident in spite of being benched.
“Absolutely,” he said. “You never doubt yourself. There are plenty of (critics) out in the world who are already doubting you.”
Holmes ended up playing most of the game at left tackle after Sam Baker suffered a knee injury in the second quarter and didn’t return. Holmes also played left tackle last week at Miami when Baker missed the game with knee and foot injuries.
Going for it: After a week of criticism from fans for being too conservative in a defeat at Miami, Falcons coach Mike Smith took a couple risks against the Patriots that didn’t work it.
Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, the Falcons went for it on fourth-and-2 at New England’s 7-yard line but Matt Ryan’s pass for Roddy White was off target.
“Roddy ran a good route and I made a poor throw,” Ryan said.
After the Falcons recovered an onside kick and were able to cut New England’s lead to 30-23 with three minutes to play, Smith opted to try another on-side kick though he still had three timeouts. New England recovered the kick at Atlanta’s 46-yard line.
“We felt the way they lined up the first time, the way we have our onside kick set up, that we have the numbers as an advantage,” Smith said. “It ended up working out for us.”
The Falcons got the ball back at their 38-yard line when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady fumbled the snap on fourth down.
Injury report: Smith said he had no update on Baker’s status. Baker walked through the locker room Monday limping heavily on his left leg.
Linebackers Akeem Dent and Paul Worrilow left the game with injuries. Dent suffered a sprained ankle. The Falcons said Worrilow had a knee injury.
The New York Jets (2-2) on Monday at the Georgia Dome.
“We have to flip the focus to ourselves,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We’ve got an extra day this week, starting (Tuesday). We will practice ‘Falcons on Falcons’ and the emphasis will be on some of the deficiencies that have shown up on our first four games.”