Rewind: Matt Ryan had lowest rating in 35 games

The game that was

Thanks to a 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans, the Falcons’ chances of repeating as NFC South champions are on life support. At 7-5, they trail the New Orleans Saints (9-3) by two games with four to play. Realistically, they are in a battle with Detroit (7-5), Chicago (7-5) and the New York Giants (6-6) for one of the two wild-card bids.

What we learned

1. Falcons can't hit the deep ball. The Falcons had a great plan to attack the No. 1-ranked defense with some deep surgical strikes. But when quarterback Matt Ryan missed on early passes to Roddy White and Julio Jones and didn't execute a flea-flicker play with precision, Houston safeties Glover Quin and Danieal Manning were free to stalk running back Michael Turner. The flea flicker was intercepted after Ryan received a high toss from Turner. Ryan's 50.6 passer rating was his worst showing since he had 46.6 against the Saints in 2009, 35 regular-season games ago. It was the fourth-lowest rating of his career.

2. Pass rush is lacking. The Falcons had three sacks and just two quarterback hits. Defensive end John Abraham, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and defensive tackle Vance Walker came up with the sacks. But the plan to unsettle the rookie quarterback, who was making his first NFL start, never materialized. Houston quarterback T.J. Yates deserves credit for staying poised while showing good mobility. The Falcons want to pressure quarterback, and got some sacks, but not much else in terms of hits, knockdowns or hurries.

3. Franks and Owens held up in coverage. Dominique Franks, who made his first NFL start, and Christopher Owens held up in coverage. Franks started at left cornerback for Brent Grimes and moved inside in the nickel to replace Kelvin Hayden. In the nickel, Owens played left cornerback. Franks was in coverage on Andre Johnson's 50-yard catch. Franks finished with three tackles.

Injury report

No new injuries were reported. Hayden (dislocated toe), Grimes (knee) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) were inactive because of injury. William Moore (quadriceps) has been active for the last two games, but has not played.

The numbers game

162

The Falcons entered the game as the No. 2-ranked defense against the run, giving up 85.3 yards per game. The Texans rushed for 162 yards on 44 carries (3.7 per carry); the Falcons had given up just 146 yards in their three previous games.

15

Houston running back Arian Foster, who rushed for 111 yards on 31 carries, became the first back in 15 games to rush for more than 100 yards against the Falcons.

50.5

Punter Matt Bosher’s average on four punts. He averaged 50.4 on five punts in the previous game against Minnesota.

70

The Falcons were held to 70 yards rushing on 18 carries (3.9 per carry).

3,154

Ryan has passed for 3,154 yards this season. This is the third time he’s thrown for more than 3,000 yards in four seasons.

Sound bite

“It was a tough game. We left some opportunities out there. A couple of mistakes, here and there and we ended up giving them the game.”

-- Abraham on the 17-10 loss to the Texans.

Loose ends

The Falcons had seven penalties for 43 yards, but none more costly than Dunta Robinson’s holding call, which nullified Mike Peterson’s 31-yard interception return for a touchdown. ... Running back Michael Turner has 233 carries for 992 yards and eight touchdowns this season. ... Cornerback Darrin Walls was active for the first time this season and played on special teams. ... Moore and wide receiver Kerry Meier did not play.

What’s next

The Falcons (7-5) will face the Carolina Panthers (4-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 31-17 on Oct. 16 at the Georgia Dome.