Matt Ryan: New OC Steve Sarkisian doing fine; players need to play better

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan backed the performance of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian through five games on Wednesday and implied the players have to do better adjusting to Sarkisian.

The reigning MVP said Sarkisian's play-calling shouldn't be looked at as the cause of the offensive struggles despite Sarkisian being a first-time NFL coordinator.

"I think Sark's done a good job," Ryan said. "You know, I think we're very much on the same page. I think the communication's been really good. I think when you look at some of our struggles on the offensive side of the ball, it comes down to us players making plays. You can be in good positions, and when you don't come down or make the throw or whatever you need to do in those situations, it's not about scheme. It's about players."

The Falcons, who led the league with an average of 33.8 points per game last season, currently sit 12th out of 32 teams while averaging 24.2 points per game. Atlanta has been outscored 72-40 in second halves, and that minus-32 differential ranks 30th in the league.

And the Falcons, with seven giveaways and just three takeaways, rank 27th in the league in turnover margin. Last year, they finished tied for fourth in that category at plus-11 (22 takeaways, 11 giveaways).

Ryan, who has six interceptions -- some due to tipped passes and bad plays by his receivers -- and one lost fumble, took ownership of his part in the offensive woes. "That's how we all have to kind of look at it: Take a look in the mirror and try to be the best version of yourself," Ryan said. "But I think Sark has done a great job. And honestly, I think he's put us in good positions through five games. I think we'll continue to get better, for sure. I think he has a better understanding now having been here, having gone through game situations. I think he's gotten better as the year's gone on. But I think as players, we need to play better."

Ryan downplayed any talk of it taking a couple of years to adjust to a new coordinator. The transition to former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan wasn't seamless, but Ryan took off in Year 2 under Shanahan and won the MVP.

When Sarkisian took over, the Falcons kept the same general offensive concepts in place, related to the outside-zone blocking scheme, with some new wrinkles, of course. So Ryan doesn't believe it will take two years for the offense to click under Sarkisian. "No, I don't think so," he said. "I think we obviously haven't played as well as we're capable of through five games, but we're certainly close. We've done a lot of really good things at times. And I think that comes down to execution, from a player's standpoint. We've been in some pretty good positions. We haven't executed as well as we [would] have liked."

Maybe the cure to the Falcons' offensive problems lies in facing a Patriots defense that ranks last in total defense (440.7 yards per game), passing yards allowed per game (324.4 yards per game) and first downs allowed (24.3 per game), as well as ranking 30th in scoring defense (26.5 points allowed per game).