Despite 4-4 record at halfway point, Falcons staying confident
— 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
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.”