On the hot seat: Without Calvin Ridley, Falcons’ Russell Gage must produce

Dallas Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson (6), Jourdan Lewis, center bottom, and Chauncey Golston (59) celebrate after Lewis broke up a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage, center front, in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Caption
Dallas Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson (6), Jourdan Lewis, center bottom, and Chauncey Golston (59) celebrate after Lewis broke up a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage, center front, in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Credit: Michael Ainsworth

Credit: Michael Ainsworth

FLOWERY BRANCH -- With no rushing attack, no Calvin Ridley and possibly no Cordarrelle Patterson, the Falcons need wide receiver Russell Gage to produce.

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A fourth-year wide receiver from LSU, Gage will be the hot seat when the Falcons (4-5) host the Patriots (6-4) at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In 2020, Gage thrived in the slot with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley working outside. He had a career season with 72 catches for 786 yards and four touchdowns.

With Jones traded to Tennessee in the offseason and Ridley on the non-football injury list, the Falcons need Gage to emerge as a reliable target in the passing game. Patterson was limited in practice this week with an ankle injury.

“You have you good days, you have your bad days,” Gage said.

He suffered a high ankle sprain in the second game of the season and missed three games. He has played in six games with 26 targets. He’s caught 16 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown.

In the debacle against Dallas on Sunday, Gage had a big drop on third down and didn’t have a catch on three targets.

“As a team, we just didn’t play well,” Gage said. “Catches or not. We weren’t hitting on all cylinders. We weren’t together. There are a lot of things we know that we can get better at. We just didn’t play that well (against Dallas).”

In the previous game, Gage caught seven passes for 64 yards against the Saints. He hasn’t consistently been a weapon.

“There are a lot things you can look at,” Gage said. “I mean I missed three games. So, who knows. This conversation might be totally different had I played those three games. We might be looking at it like he had some games where he didn’t touch the ball. We might be looking at it like he had three games where he did really well.”

Gage wasn’t targeted in the Carolina loss and had only two targets in the opener against the Eagles. He believes he can do a better job of creating separation from defenders. The Cowboys broke up 10 passes and had three interceptions against the Falcons’ passing attack.

“There are things I could have done better to get separation,” Gage said. “Clearly, … the biggest thing is, when I looked at the film, we just didn’t play well as a group.”

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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

Next four games

Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18

Falcons at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28

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

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

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