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Early Bird Report: A unusual suggestion for protecting Matt Ryan

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes a question from Vaughn McClure about sitting Matt Ryan to protect him as well as Mohamed Sanu’s perfect streak ending.

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Injuries have been a major storyline for the Falcons this season, and seven starters have been placed on injured reserve at some point this year. That list includes Atlanta’s two starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, which has had a noticeable impact on the offensive line.

Former NFL MVP Matt Ryan has been under constant pressure this season. He is currently on pace to be sacked 48 times, which would be the most in his 10-year NFL career. As of now, he’s been sacked 36 times.

"Well, No. 1, I'm concerned about it because if we're not protecting him in the way that we can, then that gets hard," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "And there's some games that the score's out of whack and it turns into a dropback game where there's going to be more chances for a defense to go after him.”

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure asked the question in a recent article, should the Falcons sit Ryan if they are mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Given Ryan’s ultra-competitive nature, that seems like a long-shot, but go ahead and read McClure’s piece to see what he has to say.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

The Ringer: Winners and losers from Week 13

After a loss like the Falcons just had, you may already think you know where Atlanta would fit in an article that separates winners and losers. This one comes with a twist, however, as it’s Mohamed Sanu who is the Falcons player mentioned in this piece. His perfect 6-for-6 career passing mark came to an end Sunday, leaving the Ringer’s Rodger Sherman quite sad.

“It was a great day for every passing non-quarterback except the greatest to ever do it,” Sherman writes. “Mohamed Sanu, the Falcons wide receiver who began his passing career 6-for-6 with 228 yards and three touchdowns, threw an incompletion on a trick play Sunday. He maintains his 158.3 career quarterback rating, but loses his 100 percent completion percentage.

“We can no longer argue that Sanu is literally a perfect passer. We know that it is possible for him to throw a ball that is not caught. I can no longer end paragraphs about his surprising passing success with a cheap joke like “he should start over Matt Ryan,” like I just did for OBJ. Nothing gold can stay, not even trick plays.”

AJC: Sad Falcons somehow this bad on offense

Sunday’s loss to the Ravens was exactly what the Falcons did not want to have happen. It’s not just that they lost the game, but it’s how they lost the game.

A once high-flying offense scored 9 points and gained 131 total yards, while the defense allowed the Ravens to possess the ball for nearly 40 minutes and had three third-down penalties that resulted in first downs.

As Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes in his column, the most surprising aspect of Sunday’s game was how far the Falcons’ offense has fallen in recent weeks.

“The Falcons had slipped offensively before Sunday, but I couldn’t have imagined they could ever be this bad,” Cunningham writes. “Less than two years after this offense was so good, the Falcons need to rethink where it’s going. They have most of the same faces, but they need honest self-evaluations of their coaches and players.”

To read the rest of Cunningham’s column, click here.

ESPN: Falcons offense fails at wrong time of season

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure also wrote about the offense after the game, noting that it was not long ago that the unit was believed to be able to carry the Falcons in most games. That has not been the case during their current losing streak, and he notes that it failed again on Sunday.

“Such hasn't been the case for the Falcons over the past 22 days during a four-game losing streak that put any playoff talk to rest,” McClure writes. “They have averaged just 17 points per game over that span while dropping to 4-8.

“Sunday's 26-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens magnified all that has gone wrong for the Falcons on the offensive side of the ball. They knew they had a challenge against the league's top defense in the Ravens, but no one would have expected the Falcons to gain 131 net yards, their lowest total in a game since managing just 106 in a 26-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 12, 1999.”

To read the rest of McClure’s piece, click here.

NFL.com: Takeaways from Week 13’s games

Not surprisingly, there weren’t many positive takeaways from Sunday’s game for the Falcons. That is reflected in Nick Shook’s three takeaways for NFL.com, which mostly centers on the Ravens’ performance. Shook did eventually get to Atlanta, but he spoke of the changes that need to happen moving forward.

“Atlanta looks like a team that is headed toward some type of coaching staff change,” Shook writes. “The Falcons need help protecting Matt Ryan, and Ryan needs more options than desperate heaves toward Julio Jones. A lot of Sunday was the latter, with Ryan targeting Jones eight times but completing just two of those passes. Austin Hooper led the team in receiving and caught its only touchdown, and the Falcons were even worse on the ground. These seem to be the final weeks of Steve Sarkisian in Atlanta, which will need to turn to a new coordinator and replacements along the offensive line in 2019.”

To read the Shook’s other takeaways, click here.

CBS Sports: Packers fire Mike McCarthy after loss

There was a growing sense that Green Bay would move on from its long-time head coach after the season, but the Packers pulled the plug early. Following the Packers’ bad loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the team announced that it was firing Mike McCarthy and naming Joe Philbin as interim head coach. It’s puzzling that the team would decide to make the move with four games left to play, including next week’s matchup with the Falcons, but CBS Sports’ Will Brinson offers one idea of why it could have happened.

“On the other hand, there may be a desire by the organization to get a head start on a coaching search they knew they would be embarking on anyway in the offseason,” Brinson writes. “Additionally, losing the team down the stretch and continuing to see the team fall apart isn't the sort of thing you want with a would-be Super Bowl defender.”

To read the rest of Brinson’s piece on McCarthy’s firing, click here.

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