ATLANTA -- It’s a mess.
That’s perhaps the easiest way to describe the Atlanta Falcons’ offense at the moment, as they've gone 130-plus minutes without a touchdown after the New England Patriots shut them out, 25-0, on Thursday night.
Yes, the Falcons were playing without their do-everything offensive weapon, Cordarrelle Patterson, and receiver Calvin Ridley hasn’t been available in weeks, but Atlanta’s continued inability to produce offensively has become a massive issue.
Thursday, in Atlanta, might have been its nadir. The Falcons, in front of a building maybe 60% full (and a lot of those were Patriots fans), were shut out at home for the first time since Oct. 9, 1988, when they lost 33-0 to the Los Angeles Rams.
It’s beyond just Thursday, though. The Falcons have gone back-to-back games without a touchdown for the first time since Weeks 8 and 9 of the 1987 season, with a 38-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints and a 38-3 loss to Cleveland Browns.
“It feels ugly right now and in this moment,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Yeah, you feel obviously pretty poor when you go there, you get to 4-4, you get a big win. You guys all watched the last two games. We've done it before. Like I said, it's continual improvement. You hope not to ride the rollercoaster.
“We got to fix things, and we are going to get them fixed, and we'll get them fixed in a hurry.”
The good news for Atlanta is the opponents get marginally easier -- they face the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road next -- but in a season when Atlanta’s offense was supposed to be better than its defense, it’s looking like the Falcons are having big-time issues on both sides of the ball.
Describe the game in two words: Just. Ugly. That’s the best way to describe another offensive failure from Atlanta -- this time on a day when its defense held up well enough to be competitive.
Buy A.J. Terrell’s ascent: It’s been happening throughout the season, but in Atlanta’s worst offensive performance of the season, it once again discovered it has a defensive star. Terrell finally snagged his first interception of the season, reading a deep ball by Mac Jones, stepping in front of it and returning it 35 yards to midfield, offering Atlanta a rare glimpse of promise. It was also the Falcons’ longest yardage gain of the day.
The offensive line’s failure to block well is troubling: It’s not all on the line, of course -- other guys have to make plays at some point -- but Atlanta has been struggling to run or pass block for weeks now. It was evident a week ago against Dallas and more clear Thursday against New England.
Quarterback Matt Ryan turned into a piñata for the Patriots, sacked four times and hit 11 times. He was pressured on 44% of his dropbacks Thursday. The Patriots had six tackles for loss, and Atlanta averaged 2.5 yards per rush with only practice squad call-up Qadree Ollison in double-digit rushing yards.
“It’s just a lack of execution,” left tackle Jake Matthews said.
The line’s failures have stunted what an already-incomplete offense can really do. Considering the Falcons have three first-round picks and two third-round picks on the line, it should be better. If Atlanta wants to reverse this trend this season, it has to be.
QB breakdown: Some of this goes into the offensive line issues, but Ryan once again had a bad, bad day. More of it was Ryan’s fault Thursday, including two fourth-quarter interceptions that all but sealed the game. After a week when Ryan threw for one of his worst yardage performances against Dallas (117 yards), he followed it up with another game of no touchdowns and under 200 yards passing.
He doesn’t have many high-level options to throw to, but it’s been a bad couple of weeks for the veteran, who also looked like he was banged up a bit in the first half. Ryan said after the game his injured toe “is fine. I think it’ll be OK moving forward.” He also said he didn’t think the injury impacted his throwing or his movement much, and he indicated he didn’t think it would be an issue for him next week against Jacksonville.
For the second straight week, Ryan didn’t finish the game -- having Josh Rosen come in with it out of reach. On this night, Rosen would complete the offensive offensive performance with a pick-six to Kyle Van Noy, who sacked Ryan twice. And then Feleipe Franks threw an interception on his first pass.
Since 1990, the Falcons are the fifth team to have three quarterbacks throw an interception in the same game – and the first since the 2000 Chargers, when Ryan Leaf, Jim Harbaugh and Moses Moreno all threw picks. The 1995 Packers (Brett Favre, Ty Detmer and T.J. Rubley), 1995 Panthers (Kerry Collins, Frank Reich and Jack Trudeau) and 1993 Buccaneers (Steve DeBerg, Craig Erickson and Casey Weldon) were the other teams.
Atlanta is also the first team since 2009 to have any three players throw interceptions in the same game, when quarterbacks Matt Schaub, Rex Grossman and running back Chris Brown all did it for the Texans.