The Atlanta Falcons are currently in unfamiliar territory as they enter Week 5 of the NFL season with a 1-3 record. Last year they did not lose their first game until Week 10 and only lost three games all year. Week 10! The slow start is quite a blow to the ambitious, Super Bowl-bound expectations the team and fans had entering this season.
It is not yet time for the Falcons faithful to panic.
Going into Week 5 with only one win is not what the Falcons had envisioned, but two losses did come against two very good teams on the road. The 2013 Saints have looked like the pre-bounty scandal Saints, but with a much-improved defense. The Dolphins are also vastly better than last year, and look like they could be a playoff team after a hot 3-1 start. They may have caught the Falcons by surprise with their new-found toughness. Unfortunately it took them three quarters to wake up against the Patriots, but like the other games they had a chance to win or tie in the last drive.
The Falcons were never out of the game against the high-flying Saints,. On the final drive, Matt Ryan led them the length of the field to put his team in a position to win the game, but Steven Jackson then dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown. Jackson will make that catch 9 out of 10 times, so it was an unlucky break for the Falcons.
“I dropped the ball,” Jackson told NFL.com after the loss. “It wasn’t the easiest catch, but I’m not a person to make excuses.”
The Falcons have plenty of talent on offense; they just need to execute in the red zone. “Last year, through the season, we were 10th in the league in red zone efficiency,’’ head coach Mike Smith said after the Dolphins game, “Right now we are 24th in the league. We would like to be in the top 10 in the league.’’
Even with Steven Jackson out and Roddy White limited by an ankle injury, the Falcons’ offense has been able to move the ball effectively. Matt Ryan has a QB rating of 97.7 and is completing 66.5% of his passes. Julio Jones has really stepped up in the absence of these two stars, and to leads the league in with 481 receiving yards.
The schedule looks favorable for the Falcons. Their next four are winnable games against the Jets, Buccaneers, Cardinals and Panthers. It also helps that the NFC is not looking as strong as most had anticipated coming into this season. Only five teams in the NFC have winning records, so the Falcons do not have a lot of ground to make up. If the Falcons come out of these four games at 4-3, they will be right in the thick of the mid-season playoff picture.
~ Justin Olexa, Sidelines Sports Analyst