Short takes: Ryan goofs, Falcons lose and Blank has decisions to make

Matt Ryan watches as New Orleans safety Jamarca Sanford picks off a pass late in the game to set up the Saints' winning field goal Sunday at the Georgia Dome (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Matt Ryan watches as New Orleans safety Jamarca Sanford picks off a pass late in the game to set up the Saints’ winning field goal Sunday at the Georgia Dome (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

With a chance to put some window dressing on a non-playoff season, the Falcons found a way to hand New Orleans a win Sunday. Or throw them a win, to be more accurate. Matt Ryan’s interception with 1:42  left set up a 30-yard field goal by Saints kicker Kai Forbath, giving New Orleans a 20-17 win over the Falcons in the season finale. The Falcons, who had already been eliminated from the playoffs, finished 8-8 after starting 5-0.

Here’s a link to my full column on MyAJC.com.

Below are my three “short takes”on the game.

1. Microcosm of the season: The final game and the final loss was like many others for the Falcons’ this season: a solid performance by the defense and an underperforming offense and a turnover or two making the difference in a loss. The final blow: Matt Ryan’s short toss over the middle intended for Devonta Freeman was picked off by Saints safety Jamarca Sanford at the Falcons’ 25-yard-line with 1:42 left, setting up the game-winning field goal. It was a typical mixture of good, bad and worse. Freeman: 81 yards rushing but a fumble in the end zone. Ryan: 334 yards passing and two touchdowns but the game-deciding interception. Julio Jones: nine catches for 149 yards but zero touchdowns. Does this all get fixed with the firing of Kyle Shanahan? Don’t assume that. The firing I mean (continued).

2. Decisions, decisions: Shanahan and general manager Thomas Dimitroff both have been under fire from fans and some members of the media. For what it’s worth, it wouldn’t surprise me if neither was fired. Ryan said if it was up to him, Shanahan would be brought back. (Comments in the column.) Blank was evasive after the game but said no decisions have been made yet. (Comments in the column.)  If Blank chooses to bring back Dimitroff and doesn’t ask coach Dan Quinn to fire Shanahan, it would not be surprising to see some low-level changes made, whether on the coaching staff, in the personnel department or both. Blank is as much about perceptions as he is the bottom line. So if feels he needs to fire assistant coaches and/or scouts to affirm publicly that he wasn’t satisfied with the Falcons’ season, he will do so. Expect any changes that take place to happen soon.

3. Roddy White’s farewell? He had a reduced role in  Shanahan’s offense for most of the season but frequently made big catches when needed (notwithstanding a sideline drop for a potential big gain in Saints’ territory in the third quarter). In 14 games last season, White was targeted 125 times and made 80 catches for 921 yards and seven touchdowns. In 16 games this season, he was targeted 70 times and made 43 catches for 506 yards and one touchdown. He remains a popular player — chants of “Roddy, Roddy,” echoed in every game he made a catch — but it’s no better than 50-50 that the team brings him back next season at the age of 34. White has two years left on his contract with base salaries of $2.75 million and $3 million and roster bonuses of $1.5 million each season. Restructuring his deal — by lengthening the deal and moving some money into the form of a signing bonus — would not significantly reduce his salary cap number but that’s not to say it couldn’t happen. White reiterated after the game he wants to come back and added, “I expect to be a Falcon.”

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87 comments
Bob Abouy
Bob Abouy

This team is what it is because the owner and city are what they are. Blank is a successful businessman and making money with the team. The area really doesn't care about pro football and is apathetic at best. With the vanilla approach and who cares fan base why would anything change?


atlfalconno1fan
atlfalconno1fan

any one that thinks matt ryan is not the problem is in serious denial...good quaterbacks make smart plays and make the players around them better//20 mill a year and playing this bad with a weak arm..with the talented mr julio jones on your team..and other weapons...many quaterbacks would love to have mr julio onthier team..bit matt ryan is in decline and his arm to weak...cut ties ..move on or lose the already disgruntled fan base 

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

The Falcons really need to use the off season to shop for a new QB. Matt's best years appear to be in the rear view mirror. Wishing that he'll play better next season is kinda like putting milk that's gone sour back into the fridge and hoping it'll be better next time out.

TideDawg
TideDawg

Not that what I think matters....I think that Ryan is so conscientious about how well the team plays that he tried to carry the team. He's good but no QB could have carried that team. Deep talent is what they need and in pro football it takes years of drafting to get to that point. In college ball a team can be recruited in two years. The defense was better(not great, just better).....that's a start. There have been too many losers drafted by Mr. D., and a team just can't afford those mistakes in pro ball. There appears to be an abundance of good D players in the next draft. Go for it! Build a great defense. That would be the biggest boost for a mediocre offense. Not many potential great QBs in the next draft so build that defense into a force.

DS
DS

This was a great game---heartbreaker at the end.

The Falcon's defensive line just wasn't able to put any pressure on Brees. You give him that much time in the pocket and he will carve up any defense. Our defensive backfield made some good plays, which helped keep us in the game. But the Saints' Oline was much better than our Dline for the entire game.

The Falcon's Oline played better---not as well as against the Panthers, but much better than during the midseason losing streak. I think stronger play at the Oline would help Ryan settle in and make fewer mistakes. (That last interception was a killer.)

I don't care what the Falcons do about coaching staff and GM as long as they get serious about hiring better talent and depth at the line of scrimmage. We have pretty good talent in other positions, but they aren't able to play at their full potential without better play at the line of scrimmage.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

White should be gone Hardy and maybe someone in the draft with goo gobs of speed will take his place.

ZAZ
ZAZ

More 'decisions' from Blank? Oh, yeah, that's all we need.

DrPhill
DrPhill

Fire the batting coach.

Therut
Therut

Lets see if I have this right. Freeman fumbles (again) inside the five, Julio drops  three balls and they are both going to the pro bowl

RUM
RUM

Everyone should run out today and buy Falcon season tickets for next year.

Railroadtracgang
Railroadtracgang

Start with Dimitroff. He simply cant evaluate talent in football. I have no idea why he has a job. Ryan is a good QB with an off year.  The real problem is the line of scrimmage. ZERO pass rush for years. No team can win with zero pass rush. Bust after bust on defense. 

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

Matt Ryans interception is not acceptable... He threw to a spot ( a designed play) and the defenders new it. He has thrown so many key interceptions this year.... Matt pull your head out your A$$ and fix it NOW!

candlin14
candlin14

@TrueFan1


Come on now. Once again how did Ryan get in this position? A missed FG, a fumble on the four yard line, and a penalty from Levitre to push us out of FG range.


What happened in Tampa Bay before his INT? We give up a 3rd and 19 on defense and then a go ahead TD. Probably the worst defensive play in the history of football.


What about the Colts? A costly fumble from Coleman, a missed FG, costly penalties on offense and defense.


What about the first game in New Orleans? Awful shotgun butt snap, costly fumble by Coleman, costly penalties. 


Same story in every game. The only real game I can solely blame Ryan on is the Minnesota game. Awful INT's the entire game. Other then that, the TEAM lost every game. Not just Matt Ryan.

E983
E983

That play was read by a reserve safety. Payton described it today when he held his presser. They saw it in NO in the first game.

Dawgaholic30286
Dawgaholic30286

Well time to ramp up the "It's not the wins but the loses" BS and run off Matt Ryan like you did CMR

candlin14
candlin14

@Dawgaholic30286


Come on my friend. It was time for Mark Richt to go. Special Teams was god awful, his clock management was mind boggling, and his inability to win big games was pathetic. Good Luck CMR, time to go.


As for Ryan, we still have some years left with him.

khcdec
khcdec

my goodness ryan looks like a jittery boy on first date.....way overpaid

ccrider27
ccrider27

Blank got rid of the winningest coach in Falcon history because he wanted to 'go in a different direction.'


This is what he got.


Maybe he should admit that he's just not the decision-maker that he thought he was.


And fans should admit that they have much better things they could be doing with their money.

Railroadtracgang
Railroadtracgang

@ccrider27 He got a more motivated defense and the team played tougher overall. Could have easily been 10-6. The problem is the talent on the line of scrimmage. A bunch of back ups playing defense. 

Mr Haney
Mr Haney

Ryan is not going to take us into the future. He is not bad but he is not great either. We need to draft our future QB and start grooming him. As for Shanahan I hear on 680 The Fan that the difference between Shanny and Mularky is that Mularky based his offense on the skills of the players around him whereas Shanny comes out with a scheme and makes his players conform to it weather or not they are suited for it. Dimmy just needs to go.

candlin14
candlin14

@DforDawgs


Agree with mostly everything but we need to use all the draft picks we can for the next few years on defense and offensive talent, NOT waste a pick on a QB. This QB isnt going anywhere. Like it or not!

AdmiralObvious53
AdmiralObvious53

IF Blank doesn't fire Dumy troff will tell how serious he is about turning the Falcons around.

Lakeside97
Lakeside97

Matt Ryan is a choke artist. He's shown us this for several seasons now. Remember the pick and fumble in the NFC championship game? I'm tired of the excuses. The guy is going into his 9th season and has only managed one playoff win, and he's clearly on the decline.

Railroadtracgang
Railroadtracgang

@ATLSportsRiseUp The pick in the championship game was a result of the wr silipping. Not to mention Harry Douglas falling down on a sure winning td. He was great in that game. The defense lost the game. 

candlin14
candlin14

@ATLSportsRiseUp


This QB has a solid career record. He had the 32nd ranked Defense in 2013 and 2014. He has lost four playoff games to teams who have ALL made the Super Bowl, with two of them winning it. 


Get a clue my man! What has Phillip Rivers done? What has Tony Romo done? What has Andrew Luck done? 


This is a team game and this year the Falcons lost every game as  a team. From giving up 3rd and 19s,to costly penalties, to awful center snaps, to costly fumbles, to timely drops, to costly INTs... Not just Ryan. Open your eyes!

Ed Stratton
Ed Stratton

I wouldn't say he's a choke artist but he is certainly a lot closer to being like Romo than like Brady or Rodgers. The fumble in the NFC Championship game in 2012 told me all I'll ever need to know about how far he can take this franchise.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Railroadtracgang

I see you've coyly omitted reference to his fumble in that game--despite it being clearly pointed out to you in the comment you're referencing.

SouthernDem
SouthernDem

This team has lots of problems: a lousy, unreliable and quite overrated and overhyped quarterback is at the top of the list. And its quite clear by now that Shanahan is a failure. Ditto for Dimitroff. Its impossible to expect a brighter future because this team is just abysmal; a through and through, piping, hot mess. 


Arthur Blank knows this, but he seems to value his personal relationships more than delivering a quality football team for fans. 


That means, no one is going anywhere. Of course, the AJC "sports writers" know this already because they carry water for Blank & Co., pushing out clumsy, pointless and poorly edited (Ledbetter especially) articles that are designed to distract from their complete disinterest in calling out the Falcons' entire operation on its mounting failures and inadequacies.


By the way: Roddy White is popular because he has been the one constant bright spot we could rely on and believe in all these years. And Blank allowed Shanahan to ignore him. Disgusting.


This team is pathetic. And quite ridiculous. And a total disgrace.




khcdec
khcdec

@SouthernDem how blank made fortune in business; must have been bernie that was the brains

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

Anyone really disappointed in this loss? I'm not...we likely moved up 3 or 4 slots in the draft by smartly taking this L

DawgNole
DawgNole

@BravesFan79

Anyone really dumber than you? I'm not.

We did not move up in the draft, and wouldn't matter anyway--as long as Dimitroff is involved in any way.

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

Blank would never fire Dummytroff.  Everyone knows that Dummytroff is like an 8th kid to Blank.   (Does Art have 7 kids by 3 different wives?).  He loves Dummytroff like he was his own son, his own flesh and blood.  While Smith was thrown under the bus, his son got a free pass and continues to get more and more free passes.  

khcdec
khcdec

@MaybeMaybeNot so give him a job in the foundation....or let him go work for the mercedes guy as gopher

RomanLegions
RomanLegions

Can't totally blame Ryan, there were a lot of dropped passes all thru that game.  Fire Dimitroff.

MoreyP
MoreyP

dump ryan and his obscene contract to some QB desperate team for a couple of midround picks. Clean house ---- fire all these worthless personnel people and clean out all the overpaid deadwood on the roster--then start over!

prarrd
prarrd

Matt Ryan didn't goof. That interception was only one play in the entire game. Why don't they say some receivers "goofed" and should have caught some of the passes early on. 

atlfalconno1fan
atlfalconno1fan

End the Matt Ryan era!! He has been in a gift giving mood all season to the opposing team before and after Christmas. ..he has given opposing teams gift wrapped wins ..after 8 years his skills should be sharp as knife..but they are butter knife sharpe..he has  no gut, grit ,or determination, his arm seems weak, off target, he seems confused, and makes terrible decisions. .he needs to watch film of Russell wilson Seattle's great quaterback to learn how to be a quaterback. .Russell wilson smart sharpe, and has the will to win...Matt ry a n...1 play off win Russell wilson super bowl winner...Matt ryan s time has come and gone

candlin14
candlin14

@atlfalconno1fan


The true idiots come out, thats for sure. Ryans skill set is NOTHING like Wilsons. You don't think Wilson had any help winning the past four seasons with that defense of his? Or that pro bowl running back of his?? 


WOW, Ignorance at this highest level!

TideDawg
TideDawg

Yeah! Ryan has had a bad year. The Falcons had better draft a future QB to back him up. Ryan will be back, no doubt about that. I hope this was just an off year and he comes back in '16 playing well.

Fun and Gun
Fun and Gun

I'm not sure who's to blame more Shanahan or Ryan but a power run first style offense could help with Ryan's decision making and our defense. Ryan singlehanded was responsible for 4 of our losses this year. Freeman was a nice surprise and I think Coleman could be dangerous as well if he can hold on to the ball but a bruising back like Michael Turner is missed from Ryan's tempo.We still need improvement on the lines, a pass rush, etc. FYI Doug Martin,Eric Berry and Bruce Irvin would be great additions to this team.

moboman
moboman

Fire Shanahan.  Offense way too predictable and readable.  Running plays to Devonta obvious just from the formation and how far he lines up behind the line.  Not a Ryan fan, but maybe thats why so many picks -- defense knows whats coming.

jaxspp
jaxspp

Nice choke Matty Slush.

candlin14
candlin14

@jaxspp


Please elaborate on how this loss boils down to Matt Ryan? I wonder what the game would have been like if White catches that pass he dropped. I wonder what the game would have been like if we wouldnt have missed the FG, or fumbled at the four yard line, or get a personal foul to push us out of another FG in the 4th QTR. 


You are clueless JAX!