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Falcons must put the skids on this bad stretch of football

Can the Falcons fix what is wrong with this team? Bill Shanks has more.

The Atlanta Falcons are in trouble. We knew they would be, if they lost to the 4-5 Colts, who were playing a 40-year-old backup quarterback Sunday.

But it’s beyond that.

The Falcons led the Colts 14-0 and then 21-7, but the Colts bounced back to win 24-21. The Atlanta locker room was silent after the game. What really could the players say?

They have collapsed since a 5-0 start, losing four of the last five games. With Carolina in full control of the NFC South, the Falcons’ only hope is for a wildcard spot, and that is going to take a quick turnaround to make that happen.

Now the Minnesota Vikings will stroll into the Georgia Dome Sunday. The Vikings got popped by Green Bay Sunday in Minneapolis. Now the Vikings are tied with the Packers in the NFC North, making this week’s game equally important for Minnesota.

Right now, the Falcons are in position for the second wildcard spot. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are only a game back of Atlanta, with another game to play between the two teams in Tampa next month. The Seahawks are still sticking around at 5-5, while there are five teams at 4-6 that could make a move in the final six weeks of the season.

The Falcons must figure out how to put the breaks on this skid. The numbers are frightening. In the first five games, all wins, the Falcons averaged 32.4 points per game. But in this 1-4 stretch has produced an offensive drought, as Atlanta has averaged just 17.6 points per game.

Once again, Matt Ryan sputtered at times. He was 25-46 with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Running back Devonta Freeman had a great 39-yard run early in the game, but then he got hit and left the game with a head injury. His absence hurt, even though Tevin Coleman had 48 yards on 17 carries.

The team targeted Roddy White early, which was silly. Was it trying to prove a point, that they did still have confidence in White? He caught four passes for 24 yards. Julio Jones again put up the big numbers, catching nine passes for 160 yards.

There was no rhythm to the offense, and obviously Freeman’s absence contributed to that. But Ryan is just not sharp, which is something we’re not used to after watching him be consistent for so many years.

Colts’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was sharp, completing 23 of 32 passes for 213 yards. He had two interceptions, but the Falcons did not take advantage either time – missing a field goal early on and then punting after the second interception later in the game.

The Falcons blitzed more Sunday, but even with two sacks (one by Kroy Biermann and the other by Desmond Trufant) the team is still not pressuring the quarterback enough.

New head coach Dan Quinn will be under the gun to fix things in a hurry. His team started the season with a perfect 5-0 record, and to think they are in danger of now not making the playoffs now is hard to accept.

This is not going to be easy. The game with Minnesota will be a challenge. Even with Atlanta having one of the best run defenses in the NFL, they’ll have to face Adrian Peterson. Then the Falcons have three straight road games – in Tampa Bay, Carolina and Jacksonville – before finishing up the season with games against the Panthers and Saints at the Georgia Dome.

With those two tough home games being the finale, the Falcons can’t afford to wait on getting fixed. They need to get back on track starting this week, or it might be too late.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

 


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