The Atlanta Falcons are in the middle of a firestorm. After starting the year with blazing success, they have lost five of the last six and now stand at 6-5. The five-game winning streak to begin the season looked promising. The Falcons were in cruise control and looked like they were on pace to compete with any team unlucky enough to stand in their way. But suddenly things aren’t looking so good. What’s wrong with the Dirty Birds? What has happened to the Falcons?
With a divisional showdown coming up against Tampa Bay, the Falcons need answers fast. Both teams are outside of the six team NFC playoff picture. The loss to Minnesota exposed some glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed. Players conducted a closed-door meeting to air out their feelings on Monday. Head coach Dan Quinn was fine with the situation. Per ESPN, he approved of the move.
“Having a players-only meeting has happened to lots of teams I’ve been a part of,” Quinn remarked. “It’s kind of a pretty cool thing in a lot of ways because it’s like, ‘Hey, man, I’m all in for you. Whatever you need, you can count on me.’ Knowing the group that we have, I couldn’t be more pleased that they got together; what they stand for and how bad they want it.”
Earlier in the year, the Falcons were rolling along independent of help. Now it’s come down to mathematical equations and sweeping the Carolina Panthers. What happened to the Falcons?
The Falcons are moving the ball, but they’re not finishing. When the offense gets into the red zone, they’re settling for field goals. Penalties have also become a problem. They’re popping up at times the Falcons don’t need.
Defensive tackle Tyson Jackson believes the Falcons’ wounds are self-inflicted.
“At this point, we are in a hole,” Jackson said. “We don’t have any other option, but to climb out. At this point, we have to climb out of the hole that we dug ourselves into.”
Much of the blame is being placed on quarterback Matt Ryan. He’s thrown five interceptions over the last two games and eight over the past five. Ryan seems uncomfortable in the new scheme. His timing seems way off on the reads. The Falcons have been reluctant to use the no-huddle offense, which Ryan mastered as a rookie, except for in traditional hurry-up situations.
The Falcons’ defense has also been sketchy. Going into the game against the Vikings, the Dirty Birds had the No. 1 ranking against the run. Adrian Peterson proceeded to rip off his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season. Peterson racked up 158 yards and walked into the end zone twice.
At this point, the Falcons are in danger of becoming one of the few teams in history to start 5-0 and miss the playoffs.
The Falcons need immediate answers to what has happened. If the problem isn’t solved, they’ll need more than a closed-door meeting to quiet angry fans.
[Feature Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]