Nobody is satisfied with the way the Falcons played on Sunday against the Bears, least of all Matt Ryan. However, dwelling on it won't help the team win games. Quarterback Matt Ryan told the media during open locker room on Wednesday that the team has to put Sunday's loss behind them and move forward, taking the rest of the season one game at a time.
The team is looking toward a tough stretch of games that will keep them away from the Georgia Dome for five solid Sundays, including the bye week. They're on a three-game skid, and they've struggled on the road, to put it mildly. Their performance at home last Sunday wasn't one that would necessarily send them out the door filled with confidence, either.
When asked about the challenges of hitting the road for Baltimore and not even coming home to Atlanta before traveling to London to prepare to take on the Lions in Wembley Stadium, Ryan explained that Falcons staff have already ensured that their luggage will be there when they arrive in London and have made all of the necessary preparations, so from a practical standpoint, the team doesn't have to think beyond Sunday's game. Ryan said, "At this point, it's a normal trip. It really is. I mean, just from now until Sunday at 1:00 it's the same as every week, and that's where our focus has to be. We can't worry about how next week's going to shake out or what the plans are and all of that kind of stuff. We've got plenty of people in our organization who work on that and who have focused and done a great job."
But Ryan also emphasized the importance of approaching the season from a "one game at a time" perspective regardless of the schedule. "I think from a player's perspective, it's one at a time," Ryan said, "and we're six games into it, certainly not where we would like to be, but certainly not out of it by any stretch, either. So in order for us to kind of claw our way back into this thing, we're going to have to take it one week at a time and play our best football every week. We can't worry about next week."
Ryan was asked about the young players on the team and if the veteran players were guiding them to learn to take things week by week. "Some of the best advice that I got when I first came into the league was that all these games count one, and it doesn't matter if you string together ten in the first ten or ten in the last ten, you've got to string them together at some point," Ryan said. "And so we've got ten in front of us. We've got to find a way to get a win this week, chalk off another one, and then move forward to the next week. But I think our young guys have bought into understanding that there's got to be a sense of urgency right now, and we've got to take care of business right now."
Ryan was also asked about some of the elements that are contributing to the offensive struggles. The continued absence of Harry Douglas, who is dealing with a foot injury he suffered against Tampa Bay, has undoubtedly been a challenge, but Ryan said it's just part of playing in the NFL, and that the team has to find ways to be productive without him. "Certainly Harry's a big part of what we've done historically here, and certainly the last two years. So it's always tough when you have guys go down. It's always tough to replace that production. When he's in there, it adds another dimension to us," Ryan said. "But that's part of this league. That's part of how a season shakes out. There are going to be times where certain guys are down and you've got to find different ways to get it done. And we have not done, collectively, a good enough job of that.
Ryan was also asked about the drops that plagued Atlanta on Sunday. "Those physical mistakes, they're going to happen at times. We're all professionals, but we're all human, and mistakes are going to happen. We can't, as a whole, have them happen collectively across the board at the same time. So that's one of those things. It's a tough Sunday," Ryan said. "But part of being a professional is being able to put that behind you, good or bad, and moving forward to the next one, and I think everybody's excited about that."
Ryan was also asked if perhaps the receivers were making mistakes because they were trying to do too much--in other words, looking to win the game with an explosive play as opposed to just moving the sticks when needed. "Yeah, I think sometimes if you're trying too hard to force something to happen, it can cause things to go sideways a little bit," Ryan said. "I think one of the big things is, you can't force things to happen, but when plays are there to be made, we've got to make them. And there's no getting around that. We had opportunities this past week, we've had opportunities this season to make more plays than we have, and we haven't done it. And across the board, starting with myself, when those opportunities present themselves, we've got to hit them."
The Falcons have certainly had a lot of missed opportunities this season, and when you look at from that perspective and consider the offensive talent on the roster, the idea that this offense could turn things around isn't terribly unbelievable. Players seemed focused and did not appear to be discouraged in the locker room and at practice on Wednesday. They do not appear to be counting themselves out at this point. They look prepared to, as Matt Ryan said, "take it one week at a time and play our best football every week."