BALTIMORE – Good morning. I just arrived in Baltimore after covering last night’s Georgia Tech game in Chapel Hill, N.C., where I watched a former 5-0 football team continue to stomp on hope with its second straight unexpected lost.
If the Falcons also lose today, at least it won’t be unexpected. I know, Mr. Nattering Nabob of Negativism, right? (Credit: Spiro Agnew. Kids, Google.) But consider the backdrop to today’s game against the Baltimore Ravens:
— The Falcons have lost three straight and four out of five since a season-opening, 37-34 win over New Orleans.
— They are have lost 10 of their last 11 road games, including three this season, and haven’t beaten an opponent with a winning record on the road since a 24-23 victory at Tampa Bay Nov. 25, 2012.
— After last week’s 27-13 loss to Chicago in the Georgia Dome, during which Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw for 381 yards, the Falcons rank 31st in total defense, 29th against the pass, 28th against the run and 28th in scoring.. The Falcons’ six sacks in six games also is tied for the third-lowest total in NFL, behind only St. Louis (one) and Oakland (five).
— The Ravens (4-2) probably aren’t No. 1 in your hearts. They have gone through all kinds of drama, most notably Ray Rice’s suspension for domestic violence. But they’ve won four of their last five, they’re the fifth-highest scoring team in the NFL (27.3 points per game) and they’re allowing only 16.2 (third best).
For the Falcons to win this game, they’re going to have to do things that we’ve rarely seen this season: Protect Matt Ryan, get pressure on Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco and play relatively mistake-free (which wasn’t the case last week when Roddy White, Julio Jones and Levine Toilolo combined for seven dropped passes.
The Falcons will follow this game with next week’s trip to London for a game against Detroit. Then comes the bye week — and presumably a re-evaluation by everybody in Flowery Branch.
Publicly, owner Arthur Blank has maintained confidence in coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. But it’s easy to wonder if he would feel compelled to take some action during the bye week should the Falcons lose these next two games.
Thoughts on this and the future? The cyber-floor is now yours. I need coffee. But I’ll be here all game to respond to questions and rants. Cheers.
PS: No surprise among the Falcons’ inactives: Harry Douglas (foot), Sean Renfree, Javier Arenas, Tyler Starr, Cameron Bradfield, Harland Gunn, Cliff Matthews.
— MyAJC: Georgia Tech continues to stomp on hope — AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s loss — AJC: LIVE: Georgia Tech hopes to rebound — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs win, Falcons lose, Jameis enabled — AJC: Georgia dealing with reality, FSU avoiding it — MyAJC: Does NCAA care that public sentiment favors Gurley, athletes? — MyAJC: Georgia’s response heard loud and clear — MyAJC: NCAA needs to realize amateurism is dead — AJC: LIVE: Georgia ready to give it a go minus Gurley — AJC: Minus Gurley, Dogs must overcome flaws — AJC: With Gurley suspended, is Georgia done? — MyAJC: If Gurley broke rules, that’s on him — AJC: Weekend Predictions: No Gurley, no Dogs, no kidding — AJC: Blank stands by Smith, Dimitroff. What say you? — MyAJC: Arthur Blank won’t give Falcons’ mandates, speculate on future — AJC: Falcons have turned this week into a must-win game — MyAJC: Georgia Tech’s season may be turning into something special — AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s win over Miami, starting with … defense? — AJC: Tech has a chance to take charge in ACC Coastal — AJC: Braves should have left Gonzalez decision to new GM — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Tech, UGA win, Falcons continue kindness — AJC: Are Braves waiting for Dayton Moore? — MyAJC: Hawks are still playing wrong game off the court — MyAJC: Falcons’ losses like this are on Mike Smith — AJC: Falcons: No defense, no line, no chance — MyAJC: John Hart says Braves ‘lethargic,’ need changes