Falcons coach takes blame for loss

You came blame Mike Smith for the Falcons loss to Dallas. He does.

The head coach took responsibility for Sunday’s 37-21 defeat at the hands of the Cowboys. And he presented his own case in a point-by-point analysis at his Monday news conference:

• The Falcons had three turnovers.

• Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked four times.

• The team gave up two long scoring plays: one a 59-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin, the other a 73-yard punt return by Patrick Crayton.

• Romo passed for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He had a quarterback rating of 141.

“We did some very uncharacteristic things [Sunday],” Smith said. “We started fast in all three phases. ... After the first quarter we were not able to sustain that. In fact, we really struggled with it. We’ve got to sustain the level of play to be successful in this league.

"It’s my responsibility as the head coach to make sure that we do. We did not get that done [Sunday]. To start that fast in all three phases and then to have the level of play go down, I take full responsibility for that.”

While shouldering the blame for the loss, Smith deflected criticism from a secondary that allowed Romo the big day and a defensive line that rarely pressured the Cowboys quarterback. Smith said the Falcons defensive game plan was to stop a Dallas rushing attack that entered the game averaging over 160 yards. The Cowboys rushed for 115 yards.

“The first thing everybody is going to do is point to the secondary,” Smith said. “I’ve said it many times before; it is team defense. We were not able to generate any pass rush with our four pressers. When you are not able to do that, the quarterback is able to sit back and have time to throw the ball, they are going to complete throws. That did occur [Sunday] and it will be very important moving forward to get pressure on the quarterback.”

The Falcons will have to move forward pretty quick. They take a 4-2 record to New Orleans for a Monday Night Football matchup with the undefeated Saints. New Orleans has been showing the rest of the NFL how offense is supposed to work, averaging league-bests of 427.3 yards and 39.7 points a game.

“There are some things that we’ve got to get better on, especially with [Saints quarterback] Drew Brees being one of the best quarterbacks in the league passing the ball right now,” Falcons defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux said. “We can’t be sitting there staring at the quarterback, giving him time all day.”

The preparation for New Orleans could involve a lineup change in the secondary, though Smith was not specific on what changes are possible.

“We will evaluate week to week,” Smith said. “We are always contemplating changes if we feel like they will help us. ... If we think that’s warranted we will make changes.”

Smith said injuries, especially to the running game, were not excuses for the team’s performance Sunday. Tailback Jerious Norwood and fullback Ovie Mughelli missed the game

“We have a motto. No excuses," Smith said. "We are going to put our football team out there and it’s going to be the healthy players that we have available. They have to step up and make plays. Any time you don’t have your front-line players, it is a concern. But you have to go in and be prepared that the guys in there are going to make plays.”

Running back Michael Turner does not have the numbers that he put up last season. Through six games this season, Turner has 403 yards and one 100-yard game. Through six games last season, he had 597 yards and three 100-yard games.

“My game starts with me,” Turner said. “I’ve got to do everything I can to make sure we are productive offensively. Either my cutbacks being more explosive or being more patient.”