The Falcons figured to have trouble against Tampa Bay defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea.

The Falcons came out strong and were moving the Bucs around early. However, they couldn’t sustain the rushing attack, and the pass protection was collapsed by Tampa Bay’s big tackles in the 30-17 loss Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The percieved trouble became a reality.

Also, after a few botched center-and-quarterback exchanges, the Falcons scrapped their rotating center plan.

“We’ll have to see what the game plan is, how it goes,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said on Monday. “Obviously, we went with Matt (Hennessy) in the second half. We thought that was best as the game went.

“It’s not an indictment on Drew (Dalman). He’s played some decent football when we asked him to. We just needed to ... that was a tough matchup inside and we went with the hot hand in the second half. We’ll continue to evaluate that.”

After the initial success, the offensive line couldn’t handle the Bucs. The Falcons scored a touchdown on their opening possession for the first time this season and a field goal on the third possession when they stalled at the 1-yard line.

The line’s inability to block the Bucs helped to stall the offense, as Matt Ryan was sacked five times and hit 11 times.

“I think we’re going to get things right, continue to grow and improve,” Hennessy said.

The game started with Hennessy rotating every two series with Dalman, but the Falcons ditched that in the second half. The coaches told Hennessy at halftime that he would play the second half.

“I don’t think it’s as difficult as it might be perceived from the outside,” Hennessy said. “It’s been two drives on and off these last two games. I’ll do my two. I’ll watch, then I’ll go back in and do my two. I just know that when I’m in there, I’ll give everything that I’ve got.”

The Falcons tried to throw the ball twice from the 1-yard line.

“It just comes down to execution,” Hennessy said. “It takes all 11 to score down there, and we have to be able to that.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Ryan admitted that the offense sputtered against the Bucs.

“We had spurts, but the consistency wasn’t there,” Ryan said. “I think we were very consistent the first couple of drives of the game, take away that we did not score a touchdown ... on the goal line. But I think there was better consistency there early.”

The Falcons were shut out in the second half.

“We’ve just got to find ways to keep drives going and then finish drives when we get our chances,” Ryan said. “(We) can’t give them anything. I think there were a few plays today, a few opportunities that we all have to find a way to make those plays when we get those chances.”

Hennessy doesn’t know if the Falcons plan to continue rotating the two centers.

“I’m not certain, but I’m confident in our coaches and whatever decisions that they make,” Hennessy said.

Hennessy was not hanging his head after the line’s poor outing.

“I think as we go back and watch the things that we have done well throughout the season,” Hennessy said. “Even with the shortcomings we see things to build off of. I think we are a group that’s committed to growing and improving, so I think we’ll do that.”

He contended that the line remains confident.

“It’s just a combination of accountability and then optimism and a commitment to growing,” Hennessy said. “You’ve certainly got to address the things in the shortcomings, but in the same time all you can do is get better.”

Hennessy said he’ll have to watch the film to determine why Ryan was under so much duress. “We’ll go in there and watch it,” Hennessy said. “We’ll address the mistakes, where they were made. We’ll just continue to be detailed and be real intentional about what we need to do get better and do that.”

Vea, who’s 6-foot-4 and 347 pounds, had two sacks and three quarterback hits. Suh, who’s 6-foot-4 and 313 pounds, had two sacks and two quarterback hits.

“Helluva player,” Hennessy said of Vea. “They do a lot of things with him. He’s certainly a strong player. Fast and has good pass-rush moves. He’s one of the more difficult matchups in the league. I certainly have a lot of respect for him.”

Ryan is not overly concerned about the pass protection. He was sacked three times and hit eight times in the previous meeting against the Panthers on Oct. 31.

“We’re going against a good defense, a good front seven,” Ryan said. “And we knew going into it, it was going to be tough sledding. It’s important, you try to protect the ball as best you can, stay on schedule to eliminate some of those opportunities. But I thought our guys battled upfront. I really did. I thought they played hard.”

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

Next four games

Tampa Bay at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26

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