The Atlanta Falcons are lucky in that they are one of the NFL’s teams with a reliable quarterback, in Matt Ryan. When a team are six games into the season and have only one win, the burden of responsibility nearly always falls on the passer.
But in Atlanta, it would take a brave fan to lay the blame at Ryan’s door. Just over three years ago the Falcons were 28-3 ahead of the New England Patriots and looked like they were about to secure their first Vince Lombardi Trophy. Alas, Tom Brady and his Patriots staged the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history to shatter Atlanta’s dream.
The team who lost their fourth consecutive game on Sunday don’t look all that different from the 2016 NFC champions. The roster turnover hasn’t bee too bad and they still have a strong coaching team, so how can the Falcons have a record of just one win and five losses this season?
The simple answer is that their defence seems to be porous. By porous I mean like a tissue in a hurricane. On Sunday they lost 34-33 to Arizona in a tightly-contested affair, but that was on the back of a 53- 32 loss at Houston the previous week.
You can see from these scores that Ryan is doing all he can to give his team a chance to win, but the Falcons defence isn’t up to the challenge.
When you look deeper, the team really seem to be struggling with turning the ball over. If Ryan had to be criticised for anything this season, it is worth noting that he has thrown seven interceptions, although when your team is behind you have to make riskier throws.
But the Falcons defence have made just two interceptions themselves in six games. They have a total of zero fumbles recovered, which is astounding when you consider that they have forced the ball out of players’ hands 11 times.
The Georgians need to start turning the ball over themselves, and if they can do that the team will see a significant upswing in their wins column.
Unlike the other teams currently involved in the scrap for next year’s draft positions, the Falcons are a good team missing one vital part of their game. If the defence can make more plays – taking the ball away just a once a game – the single score losses suddenly become wins, putting the Falcons back in the play-off picture.
NFL week six kicked off on Thursday with the New England Patriots continuing the dominance with a 35-14 victory over the New York Giants to make it six wins out of six.
On the west coast, San Francisco 49ers continued their perfect start with a 20-7 win over the LA Rams. The 49ers looked especially good in defence, while the fully fit Jimmy Garoppolo continued to show why Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was so reticent to let him go two seasons ago.
Seattle kept the pressure on the 49ers with a tight-fought 32-28 victory over the Cleveland Browns. That win moves the Seahawks to 5-1 for the season, while the Browns – who were supposed to be play-off contenders this season – drop to two wins and four losses.
The Carolina Panthers came to these shores this weekend in the second of four NFL games in London this month, and superstar running back Christian McCaffery found it hard going. McCaffery was held to just 31 yards running on 22 carries. Despite running few yards and missing the still injured Cam Newton, the Panthers came out 37-26 winners.
In the basement battle or “Tank Bowl” – teams are alleged to “tank” a season to get the best pick in the following draft – as it was being called, Washington Redskins hung on for a 17-16 victory against Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins came close, but a failed two-point conversion at the death meant Washington collected their first win of the season.
A 23-17 loss for Cincinnati against Baltimore mean they join the Miami Dolphins as the only teams still searching for a victory this season.