Tuesday September 18th, 2018 10:14AM

Falcons' QB Ryan looks to turn things around after bye week

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Ryan had two weeks to ponder all those turnovers.

If history is any indication, he put that extra time to good use.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback and reigning MVP usually plays well coming off a bye week, and he's got some extra incentive heading into Sunday's matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

Ryan already has five interceptions — he had only seven all of last season — as well as a fumble. That sloppiness really cost the Falcons (3-1) in their previous game, a 23-17 home loss to the Buffalo Bills .

"I think it will start to go our way," Ryan said. "We've just got to keep working at it."

The miscues are not entirely his fault. Three of his interceptions came off tipped passes.

But clearly, Atlanta's offense is a bit out of sync, averaging 26 points per game a quarter of the way through the season.

A year ago, the Falcons were averaging 38 points at the same point, went on to lead the league in scoring and made it all the way to the Super Bowl.

In addition to one of the NFL's worst turnover margins, the Falcons have been slowed by red zone issues and a lack of big plays. Also of concern: receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu are battling injuries.

"We have explosive guys, but the other teams know they're explosive as well," Ryan said.

"The way I look at it, when we get our opportunities to throw it down the field, we've got to make the plays. Whether we've had a bunch of opportunities or not, we haven't hit as many as we need to. When we get our chances, we've got to make the plays."

Ryan's past performances after a bye week should be a bit worrisome to the Dolphins (2-2). He's completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for an average of 269 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The Falcons are 7-2 in those games.

"Anytime Matt turns the ball over, that's a rare thing," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said.

"He's done such a good job of making sure he takes care of the ball. With them coming off a bye week, I'm sure he's gone back and evaluated a lot of the things that he's done earlier this season. He'll be probably working to clean that up. We've just got to try to create some pressure on him and see if we can force some turnovers."

Here are some things to watch for when the Falcons host the Dolphins at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

STILL CONTENDING: The Dolphins have been awful on offense and booed in their only home game , but they're just a half-game out of first place in the tight AFC East.

"There's a lot of noise that would lead you to believe otherwise, but we are 2-2, and we've got to know that," quarterback Jay Cutler said.

"Offensively, if we can't get it together, it could go the other way pretty quickly. But there's a lot of football left."

Miami fans have been calling for Matt Moore to replace Cutler, but Gase isn't likely to make a switch unless things get really grim on offense.

SCHRAEDER RETURNS: Atlanta's offensive line will be bolstered by the return of right tackle Ryan Schraeder, who essentially missed the past three games after sustaining a concussion on the first offensive drive of a Week 2 victory over Green Bay. "Ryan has been an extremely productive player for us the last couple of years," Ryan said. "It's huge for the team."

HOTHEADS: Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Jay Ajayi have shown frustration on the sideline during games, but it's not a concern to Gase.

Heck, the coach fits right in. "There are three of us that are the hotheads of the offense. It is No. 14, No. 23 and me. It's like a deadly combination," Gase said.

He met with Landry and Ajayi this week to discuss how they could better channel their emotions. "I need to do a better job of keeping my anger under control, and they're trying to do the same thing," Gase said.

"It's not easy. They want to do well. They want to have an impact on the game." Which of them is the biggest hothead? With a wry smile, Gase voted for himself.

CREATING TURNOVERS: The turnover concerns work both ways for the Falcons. The defense has come up with only one interception and one fumble through the first four games, which is particularly galling to Atlanta coach Dan Quinn.

The team has devoted a bunch of draft picks in recent years with the goal of building a defensive unit that is fast, aggressive and constantly going for the ball. So far, the results just aren't there.

DOLPHINS D: While Miami has scored only three offensive touchdowns, its defense has stepped up big time under first-year coordinator Matt Burke. Ndamukong Suh has been creating all sorts of havoc up front, as usual, while linebacker Lawrence Timmons and safety Reshad Jones are coming off their best games of the season.


Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at . His work can be found at


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