FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Falcons’ only two wins this season came when Matt Ryan had no turnovers in almost flawless performances.
With Ryan throwing a combined seven interceptions the past two games, the Falcons haven’t come close to winning.
Ryan showed signs of forcing passes as he threw three interceptions in the Falcons’ 34-10 loss at Carolina on Sunday. He threw four interceptions in a 27-13 loss at Arizona on Oct. 27.
Ryan says he’s not pressing as he tries to move an offense that is missing injured receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.
“I think really all three of the interceptions were a case of being aggressive and trying to get the ball in spots, but I don’t see it as pressing,” Ryan said. “I think trying to give our guys opportunities. … I’ve just got to be more efficient with what I’m doing and know that at the quarterback position when you’re playing in tight games and you turn the ball over, it’s going to be tough to overcome.”
For the struggling Falcons, turnovers from Ryan have become almost impossible to overcome.
The Falcons have lost five of their past six games to fall to 2-6. Ryan recorded the best passer rating of his career – 148.4 – and threw three touchdown passes with no interceptions in a 31-23 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 20.
Ryan threw two TD passes with no interceptions in Atlanta’s only other win, a 31-24 victory over the Rams on Sept. 15.
Jones injured his foot and was lost for the season after five games. White has missed three consecutive games with hamstring and ankle injuries. The Falcons’ starting receivers against the Panthers were Harry Douglas and Drew Davis. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has been left with near-constant double coverages.
Coach Mike Smith said Monday that injuries are no excuse for poor execution.
“We’ve got to take care of the football,” Smith said. “Possession of the football is nine-tenths of the game. That’s what you’ve got to do when you’re on the offensive side of the ball. You have to possess the football, and it’s not just the responsibility of the quarterback. It’s the responsibility of everyone on the offensive side, including the coaches, in terms of making sure we take care of the ball.”
Ryan has 15 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions halfway through the season. In 2012, he threw 32 scoring passes with 14 picks in 16 games.
“Well, you can’t turn the ball over four times and one of them being a pick-six,” Smith said. “It’s very hard to win football games when you have four turnovers. That’s probably the most glaring thing that stood out in the ballgame.”
Smith said there was some good news. Left tackle Sam Baker returned after missing three games with a knee injury, allowing Lamar Holmes to start at right tackle. Ryan was sacked only once and hit three times.
In his second game back from a hamstring injury, running back Steven Jackson had 57 yards rushing on 13 carries.
“There were some positives you take from the game, the OL playing pass protection and we ran the ball more effectively, not as good as we’d like to, but I think more effectively.”
Smith said the losing record hasn’t caused him to question his players’ effort.
“I don’t believe that the effort is ever questioned,” he said. “This is a group of guys that have played hard in every football game. There’s no quit in them. We’ve got some things that are not clicking and it is a fine line in terms of being successful and unsuccessful in the National Football League and we have not played the type of football that we need to play consistently to get the wins that definitely need.”