Hot seat: The Falcons offensive line must step up

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan comments on the development of offensive lineman Kaleb McGary.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

In their past two losses to the Saints, the Falcons have given up 17 sacks and 24 quarterback hits.

After their 24-9 loss on Nov. 22, the Falcons bent the narrative away from the offensive line. They blamed everything from the receivers running the wrong hot routes to the receivers not getting open. We even heard that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was holding the ball too long and that the equipment manager did not bring the right color of Gatorade.

We’re not buying any of that. The offensive line is front and center and back on the hot seat for the rematch between the teams, at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In the most recent loss to the Saints, the Falcons gave up eight sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Last season, in a 26-18 loss Nov. 28, the Falcons gave up nine sacks and 13 quarterback hits.

The main rabble-rouser has been left defensive end Cameron Jordan, who had three sacks in the most recent game and four in the debacle last season.

Right tackle Kaleb McGary is much improved in his second season in the NFL, but will will need some help with Jordan.

“Kaleb’s done a really good job on the season in general,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said. “He’s been a better pass protector than he’s been in the past. He’s held up really well. He’s got a particularly tough matchup when you talk about Cam Jordan – one of the better defensive ends in our league – and he’s always going to have a tough matchup with that guy.

“It’s about him getting better and better each time he plays him and finding a way to absolutely dominate the series. He’s got to get better because you know Cam’s going to bring it. Cam’s a very confident player, and we have to have Kaleb play well.”

McGary will get some help.

“We have to help him a little bit,” Morris said. “Let’s be honest, and we’ll do that, but when it’s time to step up, we have a lot of confidence that he will.”

The Falcons likely will have to play without wide receiver Julio Jones, who played sparingly in the most recent meeting.

“All of our guys on the outside need to play well, run good routes,” Ryan said. “I’ve got to do a good job of having eye discipline, making sure that I’m where I need to be when I’m supposed to be there. Getting the ball out of my hand and not letting those guys get home.”

The Falcons like to spread the pass protection blame around.

“Then our backs, offensive line and tight ends have to do a great job when we ask those guys to pass protect,” Ryan said. “I think we’ve got a good plan.

Falcons’ next four games

Saints at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

Falcons at Chargers at 4:25 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13

Buccaneers at Falcons at 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20

Falcons at Chiefs at 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 27

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