The normally affable Matt Ryan is not a happy camper these days.
“It’s never fun to lose games,” said Ryan, the Falcons quarterback and reigning MVP.
The Falcons (3-3) have dropped three games in a row and are set to face the New York Jets (3-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Falcons have boiled their problems down to under performing on third downs and in the red zone.
For good measure, through in some shaky play calling – especially in short yardage situations -- and you have a case widespread panic throughout the fan base.
Recommended for you
Recommended for you
Recommended for you
After reaching Super Bowl LI, the Falcons, playing as the defending NFC champions, have not handled things well.
“We have to find a way for this team to play the way that we’re capable of as a team,” Ryan said. “We can’t worry about last year. I know that constantly gets brought up, but as players we are not thinking about last year.
“We are not playing good enough as a unit in 2017. Frankly, I don’t really care to go back to 2016. It’s not useful for us.”
The Falcons averaged 33.8 points a game and scored 540 points, the seventh most in league history. They are averaging a 21.3 points through six games.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn has added extra work in the red zone and for third-down situational work in practice this week.
“We’ve got to make those plays,” Ryan said. “I believe that we will. We have done a good job in practice and I have the belief that will make plays when we get the opportunities in games. We just have to keep working on it.”
During the three-game drought, the Falcons went 90 minutes, 21 seconds without scoring a point from the second-quarter of the Miami game to late in the fourth quarter against New England.
The team got away from throwing to running back Tevin Coleman out of the backfield in those two games, although he did have a drop against the Patriots.
“It just didn’t go that way for whatever reason,” Ryan said. “Sometimes the ball finds different guys. I think the production from Julio (Jones) has probably been higher the last two weeks than it has been earlier in the season.”
Last season, Coleman led all running backs with 2.54 yards per route run and averaged 13.3 routes run per game, according to profootballfocus.com.
Through four games this year, Coleman averaged the same 13.3 routes run per game and increased his efficiency to 3.00 yards per route run.
In the past two games, however, Coleman has run just 16 total routes, and seen only two targets for four yards.
“The ball at different times of the year, I always feel like is going to find different guys,” Ryan said. “Tevin is going to be a huge part of what we do. He always is.”
The Falcons have struggled throwing passing of 20-yards of more. They have connected on just 4 of 23 of those passes. The timing has been off in part because Jones and Taylor Gabriel missed most of the offseason with injuries.
“I think we are close,” Ryan said. “Honestly, when we look at it, we are close, but you have to be precise in this league. Really precise.”
Ryan was 0 of 4 when throwing deep passes of 20 or more yards against New England. He has a 74.4 passer rating on those throws, which ranks 24th out of 33 quarterbacks, according to profootballfocus.com.
“We haven’t done a good enough job with that yet,” Ryan said. “But we have got the guys. We’ve got the scheme. We’ve got everything we need to do it. I fully expect us to make those plays as we move forward in the season.”
The Falcons can lean on Jones and perhaps tight end Austin Hooper more in the red zone. The Falcons have converted on 53.63 percent of their red zone trips, which is 18th in the league.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisan would like to be in the 65 to 75 percentile. The Packers lead the league at 73.91 percent.
“It takes extra work,” Ryan said. “That’s what its all about I think. Our coaching staff has a saying that you get what you emphasize. As coaches, I think emphasizing third downs and red zone production on offense is critical.”
Ryan hopes the added practice periods pay dividends.
“Extra work on that in practice and being detailed in our meetings and walk throughs, that’s where it starts,” Ryan said. “I think you take it from the meeting room to the practice field and you take it from the practice field to the game field. I think we’re going to do that.”
The Falcons have power formations to run in short yardage situations, but have elected to finesse things and even ran a jet/fly sweep from an empty backfield formation against New England.
“We have that up every week,” Ryan said of power formations. “Sometimes it’s an advantage for us. Sometimes it’s not depending on who you are going against.”