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Falcons pay price for Ryan’s blunders

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is still testing out the offensive system installed by new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Ryan is clearly not comfortable with some of the fancy ball-handling requirements and the turnovers are starting to mount.

Ryan’s performance in the 23-20 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday was a bit uneven and most be smoothed out before the Falcons face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Ryan was able to move the ball at will against Tampa Bay. The Falcons didn’t have to punt. But all of that good work was put on the back burner because of four turnovers, three of which Ryan had a personal hand in.

He also had a fumble in overtime that was recovered by running back Devonta Freeman.

Ryan put up huge numbers and rallied the team late, but he couldn’t overcome the 20 points the Falcons gifted to the Bucs through four turnovers.

Ryan failed to fall on a botched shotgun smust get on the ballnap, threw an interception and botched a handoff.

“Three of our four turnovers were on the plus-side of the 50,” Ryan said. “That’s directly taking points off the board.”

The Falcons trailed 20-3, before they rallied with some help from Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith’s bizarre decision-making.

“I thought we battled,” Ryan said. “We did kind of everything we wanted to offensively, other than protect the football. I think we had a few too many penalties as well.”

Ryan completed 37-of-45 passes for 397 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He finished with a passer rating of 109.

“We dug ourselves too deep of a hole,” Ryan said. “I expect nothing less than us to continue to compete for however long we need to play. I don’t think that’s ever going to change.

“I think we have the right guys in the right mindset that regardless of the situation, we’re going to battle.”

Ryan was seen on the sidelines irate at times.

“That happens,” Ryan said. “Guys are going to get upset, frustrated. That’s part of the game. We’re all so competitive that we want to do it right every time.”

The Falcons continued to struggle in the red zone.

“When it comes to the red zone, your execution has to be very, very precise,” Ryan said. “I don’t think we’ve been as precise as we’ve needed to be.”

Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, who had two catches 24 yards, doesn’t believe the offense’s issues are major.

“When you have those opportunities, you have to cash in,” White said. “We didn’t do that until toward the end of the game. … In the second half, we did a whole lot better moving the ball, putting ourselves in position to win the game.

“We’ll learn from that and hopefully we’ll get better. We’ll hold onto the ball and not put our defense is bad situations and get some wins.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn preaches about taking care of the ball, but his team is not following directions.

“The main thing for us is the ball,” Quinn said. “For us not to have that connection (against Tampa Bay) was hard on us. It was a hard lesson for us. Knowing we’re at our best when we’re taking care of the ball, and also creating takeaways too.”

Quinn has seen some of the frustration in Ryan’s play.

“The thing I want to make sure that we all know is what a top flight elite competitor he is,” Quinn said. “There were some great plays made out there by a number of guys.

“One of the cases is us not being able to move the ball. There were certainly opportunities for everybody. The mistakes cost us. The penalties and the turnovers were a real factor.”

REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C minus. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw an interception, had a botched handoff, another fumble in overtime that running back Devonta Freeman recovered, a nearly botched toss and he failed to fall on center Mike Person’s errant snap. That’s too many ball handling mistakes by the normally flawless Ryan. He completed 37-of-45 passes for 397 yards with two touchdowns and the interception. He finished with a passer rating of 109. The Falcons were 2-of-6 in the red zone (counting the drive that ended at the 20). Wide receiver Julio Jones caught 12 passes in 13 targets for 162 yards and a big touchdown with 17 seconds left to force overtime. He played 72 of 80 snaps (90 percent), but had the ball taken from him by Tampa linebacker Kwon Alexander. Jones must be used more in the red zone. Wide receiver Roddy White is an afterthought in this offense. He had two catches on just three targets. Rookie wide receiver Justin Hardy made his debut and played 53 snaps (66 percent) and had more targets than White with four. Hardy caught two passes for 21 yards. Tight end Jacob Tamme had 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons used their three-tight end formation, as Tony Moeaki played on 11 percent of the snaps. Ryan was sacked once, but hit 10 times, as Tampa Bay defensive tackles Henry Melton (three hits) and Gerald McCoy (three hits) turned in strong games.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C minus. Running back Devonta Freeman rushed 21 times for 88 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. His string of three straight 100-yard games was snapped. Tevin Coleman had three carries for 11 yards. Freeman played 67 of 80 snaps (85 percent) and Coleman played 10 snaps (12 percent). The offensive line committed four of the 14 penalties. Left guard Andy Levitre had two false starts. Right guard Chris Chester had a holding call and center Mike Person had a declined holding call. Overall, the run blocking could have been better, as the Falcons averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.

–PASS DEFENSE: C. The Falcons, who were without starting safety William Moore because of a groin injury, finished the game with three-fourths of the starters out after cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (lower back) and Robert Alford (groin) left the game. Trufant injury is not expected to be serious. He tried to return to the game. Phillips Adams and Jalen Collins finished the game at cornerback. Ricardo Allen and Kemal Ishmael were the safeties. Adams was called for a key pass interference in overtime to help get the Bucs in field goal position. Allen tied for the team lead with six tackles. The Falcons had two sacks and seven quarterback hits, but only two of the hits were by defensive linemen. Paul Soliai registered a hit and so did Adrian Clayborn. Rookie Vic Beasley played 29 of 69 snaps (41 percent) and had two assisted tackles.

–RUSH DEFENSE: C plus. For only the second time this season, the Falcons’ run defense gave up more than 100 yards rushing. The Bucs, who gained 117 yards on 32 carries, became the first team to rush for more than 100 yards on the Falcons since Dallas rushed for 127 yards in Week 3. Ra’Shede Hageman had four tackles. Paul Soliai (left hand) and Tyson Jackson (ribs) suffered injuries, but returned to the game. Kroy Biermann tied for the team lead with six tackles. Paul Worrilow and Justin Durant were solid. Worrilow had five tackles and a quarterback hit. Durant, who left the game but returned, had four tackles. Brooks Reed played 45 of 69 snaps (45 percent), but had just one tackle.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B. The Falcons didn’t punt against the Bucs. Matt Bosher boomed his six kickoffs, which were all touchbacks. Matt Bryant made short field goals of 21 and 24 yards as the offense continued to stall in the red zone. Returner Eric Weems had a 31-yard kickoff return and averaged 11.5 yards on two punt returns.

–COACHING: D. Penalties and the red zone play-calling must be put under the microscope and corrected by the coaches, immediately. The shoddy ball handling is on the players and their proper execution of the plays. The Buccaneers entered Week 8 with the most penalties per game in the league, while the Falcons were among the least penalized teams. The Bucs came to the Georgia Dome and dragged the Falcons down into the muck. The Falcons were called for 14 penalties which resulted in 124 lost yards. Three penalties were declined. The two false starts by Levitre and the two defensive offside penalties (Clayborn and Beasley) are utterly unacceptable. The rest of the penalties were errors of commission. Defensively, the coaches were limited to zone coverages with the backups in the secondary in overtime.


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