After posting impressive victories over the Saints and Panthers, the Falcons were favored to make quick work of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But the Bucs stood up and pressured Matt Ryan throughout the 35-22 defeat that had players still scratching their heads Monday. And there’s no time for the bad taste to linger with the Saints coming to town for a nationally-televised Thanksgiving night matchup.
“It obviously doesn’t feel good,” said Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews. “We are frustrated. We want to do better. The bottom line is that we have to find a way to get it done.”
The Falcons had an opportunity for a quick start Sunday, but the offense stalled on the opening drive and then couldn’t turn a Jameis Winston interception into points.
“We’ve got everything we need to be successful,” Matthews said. “Now, it’s just about getting it done. We have to learn from this, somehow, someway.”
The Saints will arrive in Atlanta with a 9-2 record and likely seeking revenge from the 26-9 thumping they received at home from the Falcons Nov. 10. Saints tight end Jared Cook, who played at North Gwinnett, told NFL Network, “We owe them one.”
The Falcons’ pass rush recorded six sacks and 11 quarterback hits on the elusive Drew Brees in the previous meeting. The same rush could only muster one quarterback hit against Winston on Sunday.
“Go back to the drawing board,” defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. “It’s not going to be much of a physical week, but it’s going to be real mental. We have to stay in it that way.”
Clayborn is not sure what the pass rush disappeared against the Bucs.
“We have had some success against them, but we have to figure out what we did wrong,” he said. “They are going to try to attack us. We had some good success rushing so I’m sure they are going to be chip-playing. We have to figure out what or how they are going to attack us and go from there.”
The Falcons have to get their offensive line play back up to an acceptable standard before facing the Saints.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn has not been pleased with the guard play from James Carpenter, Jamon Brown and Wes Schweitzer, who’s been rotating with Brown.
“That’s the challenge,” Quinn said of improving the interior play. “We want to find consistency. That’s the hardest part. That’s what we are going to continue to battle for.”
The Falcons wanted to treat the last eight games like a new season. The game against the Saints will be the final one of the third quarter of the season, with a chance for a 3-1 mark after going 1-7 over the first eight games.
“We knew what the formula was for two games,” Quinn said. “When we got away from that formula, we saw what the results were. When our moment comes to deliver, we’ve got to deliver.”
The Falcons rushed for a season-high 143 yards on 34 carries against the Saints, but combined for only 111 yards against the Panthers and Bucs and have been held under 60 yards rushing in six of 11 games this season.
“We were making blocks, staying on targets,” center Alex Mack said. “We were getting running backs to the second and third levels.
“The running backs had a great game. We had the opportunity to keep running it. You hope for the same things, but they are going to adjust and we are going to adjust. They are going to be fired up and ready.”
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