Teammates have Matt Ryan's back; now he has to do his part

ATLANTA -- As a red-faced Matt Ryan slowly got dressed following Sunday’s 24-21 loss to Indianapolis Colts, his top target, Julio Jones, yelled from across the locker room in a supportive manner.

"You good? You straight?" Jones asked.

No, Ryan didn’t feel good. He couldn’t have.

The franchise quarterback and $100 million man no doubt was sick to his stomach after watching a 14-point league evaporate, thanks in large part to another un-Matty Ice-like mistake. Ryan’s early fourth-quarter interception deep in his own territory -- a play-action pass intended for tight end Jacob Tamme, picked off by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and returned 6 yards for a score -- was the momentum-changer. It tied the score at 21 and swung all the energy to Indianapolis.

This was a game the Falcons should have won. Instead, they left the Georgia Dome with a third straight loss and fans booing Ryan, rather than chanting his name.

The bigger problem here is how these uncharacteristic mistakes continue to haunt Ryan, a guy known for his poise under pressure. He had a fourth-quarter passer rating of 7.3 on Sunday, after completing just six of 16 passes for 52 yards with two interceptions. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ryan’s 3.3 yards per attempt in the fourth quarter were the lowest fourth-quarter average of his career, minimum 10 pass attempts.

Ryan obviously was upset with himself and said he should never have thrown the pick to Jackson. Falcons coach Dan Quinn was asked point-blank if it has gotten to the point that he is frustrated with Ryan’s play.

"I get frustrated when we don’t play our best, so that’s where it starts and ends with me from all phases, you know, in how we want to play," Quinn said. "I think we’ve got a really talented outfit. For us, when we don’t play at our best and we turn the ball over and don’t get enough takeaways and not have the finish we like, there’s a multitude of things that fall into that."

Losing running back Devonta Freeman to a concussion in the first quarter didn’t help. Neither did a bad drop by Leonard Hankerson with less than a minute remaining and clock mismanagement around the same time, which kept the Falcons from driving for a game-winning or game-tying score.

But it falls on Ryan. It is time for someone in the locker room to pull him aside for a pep talk? Veteran receiver Roddy White doesn’t think so.

"What do I say to him? Nothing because I know what type of player he is,’’ White said. "He competes and works as hard as anybody in this league. We’re all in a funk. It’s not just Matt. We’ve got to help Matt out. We’ve got to catch some balls that we’re able to catch.

"We’ve got to help him out, especially when he’s not playing Matt Ryan football. We’ve got to go out there and make up for the things that he’s not doing well right now.

"We all have to play better as a collective group and give a better collective effort. Matt Ryan doesn’t jump offsides or have holding penalties. We’ve got to go out there and fix all the stuff we’re doing on offense and don’t just depend on him to win the game for us.’’

Specific to the interception, White brought up an interesting point. He said leading up to the game, the offense talked about Jackson’s football intelligence at linebacker and how he reads plays. Jackson bit at first but recovered to make the pick-six.

"If [the offensive linemen] don’t come down hard, then Jackson drops back in the passing lanes,’’ White said of the scouting report. "We talked about it all week -- making him jump up into the gap so he can attack the ball. And we didn’t do that on that play. He bounced back, and he intercepted it. It’s not really Matt’s fault.

"All of us, as 11 players, we’ve got to do our job for all of us to have success. We’ve just got to get better, man.’’

Left tackle Jake Matthews supported Ryan as well.

"That’s our quarterback, man, and he’s one of the best in the league,’’ Matthews said. "I wouldn’t block for anyone else. I’m very proud to block for him.’’

Ryan's teammates obviously have his back. Now Ryan has to do his part before the season implodes. The Falcons have a solid record at 6-4, but they have little to no chance of winning the NFC South with Carolina 10-0. The Falcons' focus has to be on securing a wild-card berth over teams such as Tampa Bay (5-5) and Seattle (5-5), and they won’t be able to do so without Ryan playing up to his standard.

When it was relayed to Ryan that White said there was no need to talk to the QB, Ryan’s response summed up his exasperation.

"When you don’t make enough plays to win, I think everybody’s frustrated at this point,’’ said Ryan, who threw three touchdowns and three interceptions Sunday. "Part of being a professional and part of being a winning team is us being able to move on from disappointment and success.

"We’re watching film tomorrow. We’ll learn from it. And I’m sure there will be some moments where everybody’s pissed off. You move forward, and you try to learn from them [and] be better the next time we have those opportunities come up.’’