Falcons consider OL changes to find protection for QB Ryan
ATLANTA — Changes are being considered on Atlanta’s offensive line after Matt Ryan was sacked six times in the latest of the Falcons’ three straight losses.
Coach Dan Quinn said Friday backup linemen Zane Beadles and Ty Sambrailo could have bigger roles as the Falcons try to find better protection for Ryan and improved run blocking.
The Falcons (4-7) ran for only 26 yards on 16 carries in their 31-17 loss at the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night. Atlanta was eliminated from the NFC South race and would need a dramatic turnaround to revive its fading wild-card hopes.
Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley lost fumbles in the red zone. Quinn said those turnovers and the play on the line of scrimmage were the “the two biggest factors in the game and that part of our game needs a lot of attention and focus.”
“Obviously when you have a run game performance like we did, there’s a lot to look at and a lot that needs our attention because that was considerably below the line,” Quinn said. “That was also the big thing in pass protection.
“To have the six sacks and have the run game that we did, that’s not going to get the job done.”
The Falcons have lost starting guards Brandon Fusco and Andy Levitre to season-ending injuries. Quinn said replacement starters Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland don’t deserve all the blame for the struggles against the Saints.
“It was a little bit spread around,” Quinn said. “If it had just been one area we’d have tried to address it as quick as we could.”
Beadles was signed on Oct. 30 and has worked at tackle and guard in practice the last two weeks. Sambrailo has been the team’s swing tackle.
Quinn said he and offensive line coach Chris Morgan have discussed options on the line.
“We’ll revisit it again on Monday,” Quinn said. “I’m certainly not pleased with the results of where we were yesterday, but I haven’t made a final decision of who or what or if there are going to be changes. It’s definitely something we’re looking at to try and make sure we’re playing at our best.”
Ryan also threw an interception.
“I thought we did some good things offensively, but when you turn the football over four times against a really good football team that’s playing with a lot of momentum, that’s too much to overcome,” Ryan said after the game. “We need to be better than that as we move forward. We’ve got an extended weekend here to get some rest, but also to take a look in the mirror and find ways that we can all be better and that’s what we need to do.”
The team’s dire playoff outlook won’t affect plans to have linebacker Deion Jones play when he is available.
Jones came off injured reserve last week after missing two months with a broken right foot. He was inactive against Dallas last Sunday and again was held out against the Saints in what Quinn described as a close call.
The Falcons will try again to have Jones active on Dec. 2 against Baltimore.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll have him in the lineup,” Quinn said. “I know he was very close. The fact I think he is that close, that he’s ready to help us win, I think he’ll be out there.”
Freeman also still has a chance to return for the final two regular-season games.
The Falcons also have lost both starting safeties for the season.
Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) tries to sack Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) in last Thursday’s.