FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons are coming off their worst rushing performance of the season and Matt Ryan knows his offense needs to get that part of their game going.
When the Falcons (4-7) have had success running the ball, it's made a difference. Look at the 38-14 win over the Redskins as an example when Atlanta rushed for 154 yards. Or when the Falcons defeated the Panthers in Week 2 with 170 yards on the ground.
One could point to a number of reasons as to why the Falcons have struggled to run the ball this season. Losing both starting guards and the No. 1 running back is certainly significant.
But there's more to it.
Too many times this season the Falcons have found themselves trailing early, forcing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to alter his plans.
For Ryan, getting the ground game going really comes down to three things:
1. Get a lead early
"We've got to play from in front, we've got to play form a space where we're able to call runs and stay balanced," Ryan said.
2. Win on first down
"We have to be more productive across the board from both the run game and pass game on first down," Ryan said. "So that we're in second-and-6 or less where we have the full playbook available to us."
3. Players must execute at a higher level
"Our execution as players has to be better," Ryan said. "We have to do a better job within our assignments."
If the Falcons are able to do those three things, Ryan believes they will put themselves in a better position to win.
It won't be an easy task against their next opponent, however. The Ravens (6-5) will enter Sunday's game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with one of the league's top run defenses. Baltimore ranks No. 3 against the run, giving up 92.1 yards on the ground per game.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said they would consider a potential lineup change on the offensive line if they felt it was in the best interest of the team following the loss to the Saints. Quinn wouldn't say if they were going to make a change but the two players who could be in the mix are considering are Zane Beadles and Ty Sambrailo.
If it's Beadles who gets the nod, Ryan said he has confidence in the job he can do.
"I'm comfortable with all of our guys," Ryan said. "I see how they approach it week in and week out and I know we have a great coaching staff that gets our guys ready to play. Specifically, Zane has done a great job. He's a veteran guy who's played for a long time. You can tell he is very professional in his approach. That's been the case since he's stepped into this building. We have confidence in him just like we have confidence in the rest of our guys."
Before anything else, Ryan believes the biggest way they can help the run game become more effective is simple: Execute.
"Quite frankly, we have to be in a better position in ball games," Ryan said. "We can't play from behind like we have in the last couple of weeks and expect to run the football at a high rate, you have to throw the ball in those types of situations to get yourself back into it. So, to me, it's staying in front, staying in front of the chains, staying in front of the game and making sure we have all of our things available to us