I'll be honest: these articles are painful to write after games like the one against the Colts. Even the loss against the Saints had some bright spots that felt like they could be drawn upon. This loss, though, feels like a massive disappointment on so many levels. There were some bright spots, though, and I don't want to gloss over those. So, with that said, here are my takeaways from the latest Falcons loss.
The defense looks competent and is improving
When Dan Quinn was brought in, the hope was that he would bring improvement to the Falcons woeful defense. Many figured the turn around would take a few years, but this defense already looks much better than last year. Sunday's game against the Colts may not have gone as hoped, but this defense repeatedly put the offense in a position to score points. This is also a D that has loads of potential with players who should develop over the next year or two.
That's not to say that this defense is necessarily "good," but the early results indicate improvement. The pass rush is still poor and the defense is still good for at least one or two awful defensive series per game. However, the improvements are real and they are encouraging. Personally, I can't wait to see what this defense looks like after another off-season.
This is the worst season of Ryan's career
This is painful to write, but I don't know that I can remember Ryan playing this poorly for this long at any point in his career, even including the 2009 "sophomore slump" season. Ryan - who has traditionally been a very smart, accurate QB with good footwork - has been the exact opposite this year. His pick-six on Sunday was painfully bad, as he just didn't see the LB drop into coverage. His accuracy has been spotty at best, as his sideline throws have been quite bad over the past few games. His footwork in the pocket has also been as shaky as it has ever been.
That said, I do not think it's time to write-off our QB. Many fans are calling for his head, which seems foolish at the least. Ryan is having a poor year, but he's not alone. He's been plagued with some terrible drops by his receivers, and his interior pass protection has gotten worse over the last few games. The team has looked better when he's been allowed to play up-tempo, as evidenced by the 21 points they put up when playing "faster." But once they revert back to the play calling from the sidelines, he looks uncomfortable, inaccurate and lost. I don't want to make Shanahan a scapegoat here, but it's clear that he and Ryan aren't on the same page offensively, and that simply has to change.
The Falcons won't be moving on from Matt Ryan this year and likely not next year either. Undoubtedly, he has to play better or fan outrage will only get worse. However, it is possible to acknowledge his poor play without immediately calling for his head. Fans should remember what Ryan is capable of and hope that he can find a way to return to that form soon.
The nostalgia over Roddy needs to end
Undoubtedly, Roddy White has been a fantastic player over his career. But after watching him Sunday - and watching the Falcons intentionally target him - it's clear that he's not the receiver he once was anymore. Roddy was targeted 9 times on Sunday, but only managed to pull in 4 catches for 24 yards. Fans wanted Roddy to get more looks in the offense, and when he finally did, he just couldn't deliver in a meaningful way. It's painful to watch, and it's also hurting this offense. With Leonard Hankerson having stone hands, Justin Hardy being a rookie, and Roddy being unable to get open, the Falcons offense has major problems at receiver and forcing the ball to White is not going to fix it. The Falcons - and fans - need to move on from the idea that Roddy can be a consistent threat in the passing game.
What are your takeaways from the game against the Colts?