ATLANTA – After seemingly finding their rhythm in a 38-point outing against the Redskins, the Falcons' offense has quickly trended downwards over their last four games. In their 26-16 loss to the Ravens on Sunday, the Falcons had their worst offensive performance of the season.
Atlanta gained just 131 yards offensively against a Baltimore defense that is the best in the NFL, and the Falcons' offense scored just 9 points. A 74-yard fumble recovery by Vic Beasley tacked on the other 7 points.
"It was a disappointing day for us, offensively," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "We were never able to get into any drives, really other than the first and the touchdown drive that we had. Disappointing. Credit to them, they came out and they had a good plan for us. They executed and played a lot better than we did today."
Ryan completed 16 of his 26 passes for 131 yards, which are the fewest yards he's ever had in a game he's played every offensive snap since entering the league, and a touchdown. Ryan was sacked three times for 34 yards, which negated the 34 yards the Falcons gained on 15 carries.
Much of the Falcons' offensive struggles were due to their inability to sustain possession and gather any sort of rhythm.
"I played Air Force every year in college, and it was a lot like playing an Academy team where they possess the ball and convert first downs and hold onto the ball," Falcons guard Zane Beadles said. "You're only going to get a limited number of offensive possession in a game and you've got to make the most of them. It's a difficult way to win a game."
The discrepancy in time of possession was most notable in the third quarter. The Ravens had drives of 10 plays and 14 plays that consumed 13 minutes and 9 seconds of the 15-minute quarter, while the Falcons managed to run just four plays.
The two teams entered halftime tied at 10, apiece. When the fourth quarter began, the Falcons were down 16-10 having had really one chance to do anything on offense.
"That third quarter, I thought that was the real swing in the game," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.
But the Falcons' inability to execute when they did have the ball played into that lack of possession. The Falcons had 16 first downs on Sunday, but six of those first downs came on Atlanta's final offensive series when it was behind 26-10 with under seven minutes left in the game.
Atlanta converted 2 of its 9 third-down attempts and averaged 2.9 yards per play. The Falcons came into the game with a plan to attack the Ravens' defense with explosive plays downfield and punish them for their aggressive nature. While Ryan did attempt to take several shots on deep passes, he just couldn't connect with his receivers throughout the afternoon.
"Against a defense like that, you've got to connect on them," Ryan said. "It's tough to string together 10-, 12-, 14-play drives against a defense of that caliber. When you can create some explosive plays it gives you a much better chance of scoring, and we weren't able to connect on them. That made it even more difficult to overcome."
When the Falcons turned to their ground game in an attempt to keep their drives alive, they found not much water in that well. Rookie Ito Smith led all Falcons runners with 22 yards on seven carries. He was stopped for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 at the 50-yard line early in the second quarter.
The Ravens' defense is statistically the best in the league, so the Falcons knew they were going to be in for a fight on Sunday. They put together a game plan they felt would be effective, and the Falcons had opportunities to execute on that plan. But those deep passes weren't connecting and the run game couldn't get going.
"We've got to make the plays when we get our chances, and that's what it boils down to," Ryan said. "I thought we had the right mindset, the right plan to go against these guys. We were aggressive. But we didn't play well. At the end of that day, in this league, when you're playing a really good football team, a really good defense, you've got to play well. And you've got to put up points."
The Falcons face the Baltimore Ravens at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this Sunday afternoon. Get your inside look here.