Falcons struggle with AFC East as rematch vs Patriots looms

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 15: Julio Jones
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 15: Julio Jones /

The Atlanta Falcons have lost two straight games and both have come to AFC East teams.  After a 3-0 start why have the Falcons suddenly gone cold?

In week 2 the Atlanta Falcons had impressive 34-23 win at home over the Green Bay Packers.  But the Falcons have struggled recently to beat teams in the AFC East that they should have beaten.

In week 4, the Falcons lost at home to the Buffalo Bills.  In week 6, they lost at home again to the Miami Dolphins.  Atlanta was favored to beat both teams.  However, when they were in position to win on last second drives, they came up short both times.

Against the Bills, quarterback Matt Ryan threw an incomplete pass on fourth down deep in Bills territory.  Then against the Dolphins, Ryan threw an interception off a tipped pass to tight end Austin Hooper in the last minute.

Against the Dolphins the Atlanta Falcons had a 17 point lead at halftime and then gave up 20 unanswered points in the second half.  Why is this happening to the Falcons?  I think there’s two reasons.

First, new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is having a tough time replacing Kyle Shanahan.  Atlanta’s offense is still moving the ball, but are struggling in the red zone and quarterback Matt Ryan is nowhere near the MVP level he showed in 2016.

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Ryan has already thrown nearly as many interceptions this season (6) as he threw all last season (7). Also, wide receiver Julio Jones isn’t getting the ball like he did last season. While defense are double and triple covering, it’s still a problem.

Secondly, the Falcons defense which also has a new coordinator in Marquand Manuel, has given up 285 yards on the ground the last few games. To their credit, the Bills and Dolphins executed outstanding game plans against the Falcons and both came out with big wins.

But something is wrong with the Falcons and it must be fixed.  There’s a lot season left, but with a trip to Foxborough coming to face the Patriots, Atlanta is staring at a third straight loss to the AFC East.