Falcons Still Trying To Live Up To Expectations

By PAUL NEWBERRY (Associated Press)
Atlanta coach Mike Smith painstakingly went over every possession the Falcons had in their latest loss, pointing out each little mistake, each little miscue.

They sure added up quickly.

If things don’t turn around soon, the Falcons might just dig a hole they can’t escape.

Atlanta (2-3) is already being lumped with Philadelphia and the New York Jets, two other teams that came into the season with soaring expectations but have been major disappointments.

The latest loss was a 25-14 setback to Super Bowl champion Green Bay on Oct. 9, which exposed just how large the gap is between a legitimate title contender and a Falcons team that has taken a big step backward since last season.

Already, they have lost as many regular-season games as all of 2010 heading into Sunday’s (Oct. 16) contest against Carolina.

Now, it’s time for some serious self-reflection.

“You have to take a good hard look at yourself,” Smith said Monday on a gray, rainy afternoon that matched the mood at the Falcons’ suburban training complex in Flowery Branch.

“It starts with me, it starts with the coaches, it starts with the players. We can only fix this working together. It’s not going to be just one person. We’ve got to make sure we find ways to win football games instead of finding ways not to win football games.”

Atlanta got off to a blistering start against Green Bay, scoring on its first two possessions for a quick 14-0 lead.

After that, the Falcons looked like an entirely different team, managing just 106 yards on their final eight possessions.

“After the first two drives,” Smith said, “we basically had situations where we self-destructed.”

What made it even tougher to take was the way Atlanta looked in the beginning. Those first two possessions were things of beauty, showing off all the weapons the Falcons figured to unleash this season after adding first-round pick Julio Jones to an offense that already included Pro Bowlers Ryan, Gonzalez, Roddy White and Michael Turner.

Indeed, once the mistakes started adding up, the Falcons looked all out of sorts. The bruising Turner is expected to set the pace on the ground, but he failed to reach 100 yards for the third game in a row.

Ryan has already thrown 196 passes (39.2 a game), which is tied for second-most in the league – only Drew Brees of pass-happy New Orleans has more – and appears far out of Matty Ice’s comfort zone.

The defense did a much better job than it did in last year’s playoffs, when the Falcons were blown out at home by the Packers, 48-21. Atlanta sacked Aaron Rodgers four times, limited Green Bay to four field goals and didn’t give up a touchdown until late in the third quarter.

Still, Rodgers threw for 396 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown to James Jones that put the Packers ahead to stay.

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