Stat of the week

Maybe if the Atlanta Falcons hadn’t talked so much about how they wanted to improve their downfield passing, this wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. Then again, silence on the issue wouldn’t have mattered because the Falcons have taken a big step back in that area.

ESPN Stats & Information points out that Matt Ryan is just 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) of passes of 21 yards or more. Only Kerry Collins (0-of-7) has been less accurate on long passes.

What’s really perplexing about this is that the Falcons traded up in the draft to get Julio Jones to help stretch the defense. The plan was to take coverage away from Roddy White and allow Harry Douglas to line up in the slot, where he’s at his best.

But here’s the real kicker on this. Ryan wasn’t all that bad on throws of 21 yards or more last season. He completed 46.2 percent of those passes, which was above the league average (41.2 percent).

Ryan’s not the only NFC South quarterback struggling on deep throws. Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman is 2-of-8 (25 percent).

The other two NFC South quarterbacks are faring much better in this department. New Orleans’ Drew Brees is No. 3 in the league with a 55-percent completion rate (11-of-20). Carolina rookie Cam Newton has attempted 37 throws of 21 or more yards -- the most in the league. He’s completed 17 of them. That’s 45.9 percent, which ranks No. 8 in the league.