Falcons' season in danger of imploding after loss to Patriots

FOXOBORO, Mass. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the mood of his team was "edgy in a good way" heading into Sunday night's Super Bowl rematch with the New England Patriots.

But after a 23-7 loss, the Falcons are on the edge of seeing their entire season blow up in their faces, kind of like the way they imploded after that 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.

The Falcons, who started the season 3-0, seemed intent on regaining their swagger this week, especially after losing a 17-point lead in a loss to the Dolphins the week before. But getting demolished inside foggy Gillette Stadium by Tom Brady and crew sent the reeling Falcons, now 3-3, to a three-game losing streak with no real signs of a pulse.

Their record would indicate the Falcons are average, but in reality they've earned failing grades across the board.

An offense that was supposed to be feared and that averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game last season was shut out until the 4:09 mark of the fourth quarter by a Patriots defense ranked dead last in the league in yards allowed and passing yards allowed. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, in his first year calling plays in the NFL, continued to be the object of criticism with questionable playcalls, including a jet sweep to Taylor Gabriel on a fourth-and-1 play that resulted in a 5-yard loss. It had folks wondering why a short-yardage run by Devonta Freeman wasn't called instead.

The Falcons finished 2-for-9 on third down -- including 0-for-5 in the first half -- and were 1-for-4 in the red zone. That far below expectations, even without former coordinator Kyle Shanahan calling the plays.

"We're just not on the same page yet," wide receiver Julio Jones said of the offense. "It's not just about ... it's everybody. We just have to keep working. Every game is different.

"Last week, probably we could have took shots down [the field]. And this week, it was third down and the red zone. Every game is totally different, so you never know. Just situational ball. That's it. We've just got to do better."

While Sarkisian will take the brunt of the blame, quarterback Matt Ryan knows he has to shoulder some of it, too. He misfired on a few shots in the red zone, overthrowing his targets. And he underthrew Jones on a deep ball that could have been one of those explosive plays the Falcons keep talking about (although Jones did appear to be interfered with on the play).

Ryan's best plays against the Pats came on runs, and that's never a good sign.

An offense consisting of the reigning MVP, an All-Pro in Jones, a Pro Bowler in Freeman and blazers in Gabriel and Tevin Coleman shouldn't go 91-plus minutes without scoring. But that's exactly what the Falcons did between their second-quarter score against the Dolphins in Week 6 and Ryan's 1-yard touchdown pass to Jones in the fourth quarter on Sunday.

Defensively, the Falcons continue to have issues with remaining in their gaps, giving up 162 rushing yards to the Patriots. They got picked apart by Brady, as expected, but didn't seem to make the adjustments needed to contain the underneath stuff. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel had said it would be quite a challenge, and it was. The Falcons allowed the Patriots to convert 7-of-13 on third down and rack up 403 total yards.

And not to be forgotten were the struggles on special teams, with Matt Bryant missing a field goal and having one blocked.

Quinn will talk about "resetting" and getting right back to work, but that's what the past two weeks, including the bye, were supposed to be about. Now it will be interesting to see if Quinn tweaks some things to jump-start his team, with a trip to the New York Jets next on the schedule, followed by its first NFC South game, at Carolina in Week 9.

It didn't sound like Quinn has any major changes in the works.

"By no means are we going to change anything on a grand scheme," Quinn said. "What we do, we are going to do better."