ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have dropped to 0-4 for the first time since 1999 after a 30-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.
The Falcons were beaten badly by Seattle in the opener, blew consecutive leads of a combined 31 points in the fourth quarters of losses to Dallas and Chicago and were soundly handled by the Packers.
After the game, coach Dan Quinn insisted that the Falcons aren’t far from turning their season around.
“In my heart, in my head and everything I believe in, I know that we can,” he said. “I know that the second quarter of our season will look a hell of a lot different from our first. That’s in fact what I told the team. Nothing’s been decided yet. We have our first division game coming up this weekend. We’re certainly looking forward to that.”
The offense ran off a 20-play drive in the first half but had to settle for a short field goal. Matt Ryan was sacked for an 11-yard loss on the next drive, a three-and-out right before halftime, and the Packers easily went down the field for a seven-play, 50-yard touchdown drive that made it 20-3.
That essentially ended the game.
The defense made a goal-line stand on Green Bay’s second drive, but that was its only highlight. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did as he pleased throughout the game, carving up the defense for 327 yards and four touchdowns.
The injuries have piled up on defense. The Falcons came into the game with three starters missing in the secondary and a fourth key player, Darqueze Dennard, on injured reserve. It got worse in the second quarter when safety Damontae Kazee hurt his Achilles and had to be carted off the field. Before halftime, safety Jaylinn Hawkins left with a head injury.
Safeties Sharrod Neasman, a little-used backup, and Jamal Carter, called up from the practice squad before the game, struggled against Rodgers and Co.
Quinn knows the pressure is mounting. This is the third straight year that his team has started slowly. The 2019 team lost six of its first seven and the 2018 team was 1-4 through Week 5.
“Yeah, I think so, but knowing where we’re at, it’s certainly not the start any of us envisioned or wanted,” he said. “It’s confusing. It’s frustrating for everybody, but I also told them it’s the people inside the locker room that get to fix that and get to change that. Nothing’s been decided.”
Linebacker Deion Jones stuffed Jamaal Williams on fourth-and-goal at the 1 to set up the Falcons’ 94-yard field-goal drive. Reserve receiver Olamide Zaccheaus caught eight of his nine targets. Charles Harris had the only hit of the night on Rodgers, a 12-yard sack in the fourth quarter.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Plenty. Calvin Ridley played with an ankle injury and didn’t have a catch after going for 100 yards in each of the first three games. The rushing attack gained just 78 yards on 25 attempts. The defense gave up passes underneath for big gains all night.
Todd Gurley had two rushing touchdowns, the second courtesy of a block near the goal line by quarterback Matt Ryan. Gurley can still be a force when he bounces outside the tackles and cuts upfield.
Star receiver Julio Jones can’t stay catch a break with his tender hamstring. He missed last week’s loss to Chicago, was limited in practice heading into this game and was never a factor in the first half. He didn’t come out of the locker room after halftime and was done for the night.
Kazee is out for the season. Safeties Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Keanu Neal (hamstring) didn’t practice last week, and their status is uncertain for Sunday’s home game against Carolina. Quinn indicated that rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell, a first-round draft pick, is close to being cleared from the COVID-19 reserve list. Defensive end Takk McKinley missed his second straight game with a groin injury.
3 for 12 on third downs and 2 for 4 on fourth downs. Ryan lamented the inconsistency of keeping the offense on the field to give the beleaguered defense more breaks.
It’s a short week to turn around and face Carolina at home on Sunday. Ryan insists it’s not too late to turn the season around.
“I believe so,” he said. “I’ve been around a long time. I know times can be tough. That’s for sure. I’ve gone through some of those throughout my career, but I also know that momentum can happen quickly. The ability to rip off a few wins in a row is something that we’re capable of doing, but we’ve got to get it started now and we’ve got to find a way to get it done this week.”