Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

REPORT CARD: Bad football, equals bad grades

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Dan Quinn, Matt Ryan & Roddy White all spoke after the Falcons' 20-10 loss to the Vikings. The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter reports from the Georgia Dome.

FLOWERY BRANCH -- There is no way to put this nicely, the Falcons are a bad football team right now and they know it.

“The only way you fix bad football is that you play your way out of it,” Falcons wide receiver Roddy White told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You play yourself out of it. We have to learn how to do that. We just can’t say, ‘it’s going to get better.’ It’ ain’t going to get better. You have to play yourself out of it. We are going to find a way to do it.”

Hopefully, White is correct.

But the Falcons have been trying to fix the offense for a while now. They’ve been consistent at turning the ball over and not scoring in the red zone.

I asked Coach Dan Quinn how to fix the offense.

“In the turnovers (against the Vikings), a number of those happened on our side of the 50,” Quinn said. “You can imagine if some of those drives get to be extended, hopefully, there’s some numbers on the other end of that. We’ll start there looking first, and then pass that look for opportunities, or other things that came up in the game with each week the new challenges that come.”

This isn't a new challenge. The Falcons have been turning over the football for a while now.

Quinn is probing.

Maybe there isn’t an answer and the Falcons are just a bad football team.

Game balls: Shayne Graham, the kicker who subbed for the injured Matt Bryant after attending his father’s funeral. The Falcons may want to keep him around. He’s three years younger than Bryant and was making 55- and 58-yard field goals in warmups like layups.

Quarterbacks, F. Matt Ryan has two more interceptions and is pace to tie his career-high of 17 picks set in 2013, when the Falcons finished 4-12. It’s becoming clear that Ryan is not a comfortable with this offense. He doesn’t look comfortable and is late on too many throws. He just didn’t look good rolling to left and throwing across his body. He had to drop a pass to White in between two defenders on that rollout, but sailed it over his head. He was outside the pocket trying to make a play on that second interception. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown. The game stopped his streak of 22 straight games with 250 yards passing or more. Before the late garbage-time touchdown drive, Ryan had his lowest passer rating of the season. With those late stats, he finished with 76 passer rating, passing the 55.1 mark he had against Washington. The Falcons aren’t going anywhere unless Ryan and the offense start scoring some touchdowns.

Running backs, D. Tevin Coleman finished with 110 yards on 18 carries. He had an electric 46-yard run, but didn’t protect the football. “I just saw him (Tevin Coleman) break free, and I was just trailing him,” Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said. “Luckily, he started slowing down a little bit and he was kind of carrying the ball a little loose, so I just tried to make a play on the ball.” Devonta Freeman should be back for Tampa Bay. He was cleared to start running and warmed up with the practice squad and inactives on Sunday. “We’re hopeful that he’ll be cleared for a full participation beginning early in the week,” Quinn said. “We’re anticipating him being back at full strength.” Perhaps, the Falcons just need to pound and ground with Coleman and Freeman and not worry about passing with Ryan in a funk. Ryan missed Freeman as a check down option as Coleman was targeted twice and dropped a deep pass up the right sideline.

Wide receivers/tight ends, C-minus. Julio Jones is piling up stats in the new offense, but it hasn’t translated into scoring points. He only has six touchdowns and hasn’t scored in three games. Jones caught five passes for 56 yards, his second-lowest output of the season. He had four catches for 38 yards in the blowout of Houston. White led the Falcons with six catches for 60 yards. Tight end Jacob Tamme added five catches for 69 yards. Jones’ 94 catches for 1,247 yards looks nice, but the Falcons need points. They must get him more involved in the red-zone offense in order to get out the slump. Tight end Tony Moeaki’s clipping penalty wiped a touchdown of the board. It looked real bad on replay. The defender was running away and Moeaki went low at the back of his legs on the backside of the play. The defender had no chance of catching Coleman.

Offensive line, C. They cleared some room for Coleman after he couldn’t find much room to run on his 17 carries for 48 yards last week against the Colts. The line also gave up two sacks and three quarterback hits. Ryan bailed them out by escaping pressure several times.

Defensive line, C. The unit got off to a good start and made things tough for Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson early, but he eventually got rolling. Peterson finished with 29 carries for 158 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Vikings ran for 191 yards on the Falcons, which was season-high yield for what was the No. 1 run defense in the league. The Falcons dropped eight spots to the ninth position at 96.8 yards per game. The pass rush chased Teddy Bridewater around a couple of times, but didn’t have any sacks.Adrian Clayborn had the unit’s only quarterback hit.

Linebackers, C-plus: Linebacker Justin Durant left game with an injury. The player who came with a reputation for being injury prone suffered his third in-game injury this season. Philip Wheeler took over and ended up leading the defense in tackles with 11. Paul Worrilow added eight tackles. Nate Stupar suffered a neck injury, but returned to the game. O’Brien Schofield had two quarterback hits.

Defensive backs, C-minus. Free safety Ricardo Allen wouldn’t budge when Bridgewater tried to pump fake him out of the middle of the field. Allen stood his ground and when the pass came up the seam intended for tight end Kyle Rudolph, Allen intercepted it. Cornerback Desmond Trufant had a tough pass interference call. He was all over Wallace, who hooked and Trufant really couldn’t help but slam into him. Cornerback Robert Alford had a defensive holding call and cornerback Jalen Collins had a pass interference call.

Special teams, B. Graham made his 31 yard field attempt and extra point. Returner Eric Weems had a 44-yard kickoff return. Matt Bosher might be the team’s MVP this season. He boomed two punts for 98 yards and had a net average of 47.5 and had two touchbacks as the kickoff specialist.

Coaching, C. Unless Ryan gets comfortable and more confident in his new offense real quick, the Falcons aren’t going anywhere. Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, 66 of 72 teams that started 5-0 went on to make the playoffs. We have to go find out what happened to the other six teams because the Falcons are looking like they are going to go against the trend.  Other than that, I’m not sure how much of this you can put on the coaches. Ryan’s interceptions are killing their efforts. They seem to come at just horrible times. Outside of Kyle Shanahan’s three runs to open the game, the Falcons had a good game-plan to move the ball and had Peterson slowed early. If the Falcons get a lead, then Bridgewater has to try and win it. Some of the non-coaching miscues included Coleman botching two potential touchdowns on the 46-yard run and dropped wheel route, Ryan getting greedy on the second interception and who knows what Moeaki was doing when he tried to cut block the back of a player’s legs.

NEXT UP: The Falcons (6-5) face Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Bucs (5-6) 1 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

MINNESOTA GAME COVERAGE -- Vikings 20, Falcons 10

5 things we learned from the 20-10 loss to the Vikings

What the Falcons had to say after the loss

12 comments from Dan Quinn on the Falcons' loss

Ryan goes into detail about his interceptions

Quarter-by-Quarter: How the Falcons lost 20-10 to the Vikings

White feels team got complacent after 5-0 start

Falcons rookie Coleman fumbles again

Falcons defense pulling its weight

Falcons fans jeer Ryan after his second interception

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.