rain
Thursday May 28th, 2015 6:20PM

Ryan is 1-man show in Atlanta's struggling offense

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Matt Ryan was chatting at his locker when a teammate walked by, making a gesture that caused the Atlanta Falcons quarterback to crack up in the middle of a sentence.

"I just got bombed by Jason Snelling," Ryan said, breaking into a big smile. "He made me lose my cool."

If things don't turn around, it might not be the last time.

And that's no joke.

Matty Ice must feel like he's going it alone in Atlanta's staggering offense. Star receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White are injured. The running game is the worst in the league. The guys up front tend to buckle at the slightest hint of pressure.

All those forces came together last week, resulting in one of the worst performances of Ryan's career. He threw four interceptions in a 27-13 loss at Arizona, a dismal game that essentially put the Falcons (2-5) in must-win mode the rest of the year.

"You're ready to get back on that practice field and get going quickly after you play poorly," Ryan said Wednesday, reflecting on a 47.2 rating that was the fourth-lowest of his career. "But I've played bad before. I'll play bad again. It's all about trying to eliminate those games and trying to make them very few and very far between. That's my goal now. Put that one behind us and get back to playing the way I can play."

While Ryan took most of the blame on his shoulders, that's hardly fair.

The Falcons gave up three touchdowns in the second quarter, forcing Ryan to go almost exclusively to the air after halftime. He wound up throwing a career-high 61 passes.

"We don't want to throw the ball 61 times a game, I can assure you of that," coach Mike Smith said. "That's not what we're built to do. We're built to run the football when we have to."

At the moment, the running game is stuck in reverse. Steven Jackson returned after missing a month with a hamstring injury, but he might as well have stayed on the sideline. With nowhere to run, he finished with just 6 yards on 11 carries. The Falcons are averaging a mere 62.4 yards per game on the ground.

The offensive line didn't do much better at protecting Ryan. He was sacked four times, hit 11 other times, and threw away countless passes just to avoid going down.

It doesn't get any easier Sunday, when the Falcons hit the road to face the streaking Carolina Panthers (4-3). Their defense has surrendered the fewest rushing yards in the league (79.3) and ranks second in both points allowed (13.7) and total yards (301.4)

"We can't let this offense get on track," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

He need not worry if the Falcons don't figure out a way to improve their offensive line.

Hemmed in by the salary cap, the Falcons pushed longtime center Todd McClure into retirement and released starting tackle Tyson Clabo, hoping younger, cheaper players could fill the void.

That has turned out to big a big mistake.

Second-year player Peter Konz has struggled mightily in McClure's old spot, getting beat over and over while not being nearly as adept making the calls his predecessor handled so flawlessly. Garrett Reynolds and Lamar Holmes have not developed as quickly as the Falcons were hoping, either. Left tackle Sam Baker, the team's best lineman, has missed extensive time with injuries.

The Cardinals were able to tee off on Ryan.

Carolina can dole out the same sort of pressure with Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Thomas Davis.

"That's a very personal thing," Reynolds said. "That's something we recognize and have to continue to work on as a unit, just to make sure we keep our quarterback clean."

Ryan is focused on the things he can do to get better.

"We've got a lot of guys out there pulling their weight," he said. "I made mistakes that put us behind the eight-ball. I can't do that. I've got to play better than I did."

Smith, for the most part, has no complaints about the way Ryan is playing.

He might be the only hope of turning this season around.

"We need for him to continue to play at a high level," Smith said, "to get where we want to be."

NOTES: White (ankle, hamstring), RB Snelling (ankle) and LB Stephen Nicholas (thigh) missed practice Wednesday. ... Ryan said he wasn't surprised that TE Tony Gonzalez was still with the team after Tuesday's trade deadline. There was plenty of speculation the Falcons might trade Gonzalez to a contending team to finish out his farewell season, but there were apparently no serious discussions. "I didn't anticipate anything would happen," Ryan said. "I'm happy he's here."
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 1 year ago )
Sports
Falcons fire offensive, defensive line coaches
The Atlanta Falcons have fired defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn.
7:02PM ( 1 year ago )
Best, worst of Falcons' 4-12 season
Best Game: They'd been eliminated from playoff contention previous week vs. New Orleans, but the Falcons showed some heart with Dec. 1 overtime victory over Bills in Toronto.
6:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Gonzalez's career ends with another Falcons loss
Tony Gonzalez is ready for the next chapter of his life.
9:47PM ( 1 year ago )
Professional Sports
Opinion: Gainesville's heroic effort a worthy cap to an astounding prep season
Any coach, athlete, parent or booster that follows prep sports witnessed some amazing moments over the last few weeks -- from championships (some historic), to heartbreak and everything in between, as area teams and individuals provided us with a stunning finish to the 2014-15 high school sports campaign.
6:13PM ( 7 minutes ago )
North Georgia Finishes Third In PBC Commissioner's Cup Race
A banner year for the University of North Georgia athletic department was capped with a third place finish in the Peach Belt Conference's Commissioner's Cup, awarded annual to the league's top performing department.
By UNG Athletic Communications
4:21PM ( 1 hour ago )
LaMance grabs another Lavonia FASTRAK PLM victory
Winning is becoming something of a habit for Steve “Hot Rod” LaMance at Lavonia Speedway.
4:00PM ( 2 hours ago )
Baseball: GHS falls to Greenbrier in Game 3 (VIDEO)
In the end, it wasn’t worth the wait...
2:45PM ( 3 hours ago )
Georgia-Vandy game picked up by CBS Sports
CBS Sports, the exclusive national network broadcaster of SEC home football games, has expanded its "SEC on CBS" schedule with the addition of two early-season match-ups for the 2015 season -- including Vanderbilt at Georgia.
By AccessWDUN Staff
2:41PM ( 3 hours ago )