It’s been a tale of two halves for the Falcons this season. They started with a bang at 5-0, but the last 6 games, the Falcons have gone 1-5, including four consecutive losses.
So what has changed? The defense, although far from perfect, has maintained it’s strong start and kept the team in games. Julio Jones is still raking in catches and yards. Even Roddy White seems to be getting a larger role in the offense again, making 13 of his 27 catches in the last 4 games.
The difference is Matt Ryan and the running game.
In the last two games alone, Ryan has thrown five interception. Three were thrown in the red zone. One was a pick-six in front of the Falcon’s goal line. With losses of 21-24 to the Indianapolis Colts and 10-20 to the Minnesota Vikings, Matt Ryan and the Falcons would likely be 8-3 had those passes been completed.
A rough running performance against the San Francisco 49ers followed by a concussion to Devonta Freeman have hindered the running game the last few weeks. Tevin Coleman has shown flashed of his great potential, including a 46 yard run against Minnesota. On that same run, however, Coleman fumbled a ball that should have been tucked in close. Over time, Coleman will learn to tuck the ball in close, but it is hurting the Falcons now.
The greater concern is Ryan. Unlike Coleman, he cannot blame his mental errors on being a rookie. The pressure is on him to perform now. At 30 years old, Matt Ryan is reaching the supposed peak age for quarterbacks.
With Coach Dan Quinn putting the Falcons in position to win every week with an improved defense and a running backfield with immense potential, Matt Ryan needs to become a field general.
He has all the weapons to succeed. Jones is among the top three receivers in the NFL right now. Freeman has proven himself a major in the passing game. And White still has two of the most reliable hands on the field.
It’s time for Ryan to stop making these silly mistakesor he may follow his former coach Mike Smith out the door in Atlanta.