De­spite 4-4 record at half­way point, Fal­cons stay­ing con­fi­dent

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS SATURDAY - By Charles Odum

— Fal­cons play­ers are guarded against let­ting four losses in their last five games rat­tle their con­fi­dence.

The Fal­cons (4-4) have fallen to .500, two games be­hind NFC South leader New Or­leans.

At­lanta’s of­fense shows lit­tle re­sem­blance to the unit which led the league in scor­ing last sea­son. The Fal­cons have scored no more than 17 points in any of their losses, even though quar­ter­back Matt Ryan has most of the same weapons from last year’s Su­per Bowl sea­son.

At the mid­point of the sea­son, At­lanta is try­ing to re­cap­ture last sea­son’s win­ning for­mula. Cen­ter Alex Mack said that’s no rea­son to look for changes.

“I think the key is just to try to do what you do, trust in the process you have,” Mack said Wed­nes­day. “What we’ve been do­ing has been good. We just need to make a cou­ple more plays. I don’t think any- thing dras­tic needs to change.”

The Fal­cons need a quick turn­around in the sec­ond half of the sea­son if they hope to re­turn to the play­offs. That sense of ur­gency could lead play­ers to press.

It’s a con­cern for coach Dan Quinn, who wants his play­ers to avoid “white-knuck­ling” as they pre­pare for Sun­day’s visit from the Dal­las Cow­boys.

“Some­times with more press­ing, more white- knuck­ling, you lose the fo­cus and that’s what you re­ally want to avoid get­ting into,” Quinn said.

At­lanta’s of­fense has done a bet­ter job mov­ing the ball than scor­ing. Ryan is sev­enth with 2,157 yards pass­ing but only tied for 16th with 11 scor­ing passes.

Quinn said the strug­gles, which con­tin­ued in last week’s 20-17 loss at Carolina, forced him to ask “is our process right in terms of get­ting all the prepa­ra­tions and de­tails right.”

Added Quinn: “If it is we’ve got to stick to that course and don’t wa­ver off of it. If it’s not, then what part of your game can you im­prove on mov­ing for­ward.”

Quinn said he told play­ers they “have got to have the con­vic­tion to stay on course and do bet­ter.”

Safety Ri­cardo Allen says play­ers aren’t los­ing con­fi­dence.

“The tone was we know what we can do,” Allen said of the mes­sage in Mon­day’s team meet­ing. “We know as a team what we’re ca­pa­ble of. Just go out there and do our job. Just give a lit­tle more, take it to an­other level.

“We have an­other whole half of the sea­son. Get it rolling. Get the small things right.”

Allen said he’s seen no frus­tra­tion or panic from Quinn.

“No, he never does,” Allen said. “For him to stay so level-headed, that’s what makes you want to keep fight­ing for him. You know that he re­ally be­lieves in us and he knows that we can get it done, and we will.”

PK Matt Bryant (right calf) did not prac­tice Wed­nes­day. With Bryant’s sta­tus for Sun­day’s game still

NOTES:

un­cer­tain, the Fal­cons re-signed PK Mike Meyer to the prac­tice squad. Meyer made three of four field goal at­tempts in the pre­sea­son. Meyer was re­leased be­fore the sea­son and then was signed to the prac­tice squad on Oct. 11 for one week when Bryant was slowed with a back in­jury but did not miss a game. ... QB Gar­rett Grayson was re­leased from the prac­tice squad. ... LB Duke Riley (knee) did not prac­tice but is “get­ting closer” af­ter miss­ing two games, ac­cord­ing to Quinn. ... WR Julio Jones (lower leg) also was held out.

In other re­cent Fal­cons’ news:

Ryan, Jones strug­gling to find touch­down con­nec­tion CHAR­LOTTE, N.C.

— Matt Ryan has made a ca­reer out of hook­ing up with Julio Jones for touch­downs.

But for some rea­son At­lanta’s dy­namic duo is stuck in quick­sand this sea­son, strug­gling to find that scor­ing con­nec­tion in the first half of a frus­trat­ing sea­son for the de­fend­ing NFC cham­pi­ons.

The sea­son- long strug­gles con­tin­ued Sun­day in a 20-17 loss to the Carolina Pan­thers.

Ryan over­threw Jones in the first half for what would have been a 45-yard touch­down. Then, in the fourth quar­ter, a wide-open Jones in­ex­pli­ca­bly dropped a would-be 39-yard touch­down re­cep­tion.

Ryan said Jones makes the big catch “100 out of 100 times.”

It just hasn’t been there this year.

Jones has 658 yards on 43 re­cep­tions through eight games, but only one touch­down — a 1-yard catch against the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots two weeks ago.

Jones was a bit dis­traught over the drop with 8:12 re­main­ing in the game that would have chopped Carolina’s lead to three points at the time.

“I said, ‘We’re com­ing back to you. We love you. We know what you stand for,’” Fal­cons coach Dan Quinn said. “We’re go­ing to stay ag­gres­sive, too. Like you said, if there’s a guy you pick on Earth to throw it to, he’d be the one. He’s made tons of plays and he’s go­ing to make tons more. He’s dis­ap­pointed. He’s got plenty more chances.”

Ryan did go back to Jones, but the Fal­cons couldn’t catch up to the Pan­thers.

Last sea­son, Jones ripped Carolina for 300 yards on 12 re­cep­tions and a touch­down in the first meet­ing be­tween the teams. Jones had 25 re­cep­tions for 538 yards and two TDs in his pre­vi­ous three meet­ings with Carolina.

Af­ter his drop Sun­day, even Pan­thers de­fen­sive back Kurt Cole­man had a few en­cour­ag­ing “spir­i­tual words” for Jones as he jogged back to the hud­dle, the wide re­ceiver said.

“I didn’t take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity,” said Jones, who led the Fal­cons with 118 yards re­ceiv­ing. “I just missed it. No ex­cuses or any­thing like that. I just missed it.”

Said Ryan: “He has made more plays in this league than prob­a­bly any­body. Some­times it hap­pens. I’m not wor­ried one bit about it. We had other op­por­tu­ni­ties, too.”

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