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Monday, September 30, 2013
Falcons rally behind their quarterback

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Although Matt Ryan put the blame on himself, his teammates had his back.

There was no need to doubt Ryan when he led the Atlanta Falcons to a 13-3 record and playoff win last season. And the 1-3 Falcons see no reason to doubt their quarterback now despite a few errant passes in Sunday's 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots.

"Matt Ryan has a lot of pride in this game and he works really hard to do well," running back Jason Snelling said. "He makes those throws in practice; some of the ones that he felt like he missed.

"As a teammate, you see it and you want to rally around him and tell him we have to make more plays to help him. We have to put him in situations where, if he doesn't make the perfect throw, that we help him by making great catches or we do more things to help him so we're not in those [desperate] situations."

Ryan threw for a career-high 421 yards Sunday, but one would have thought he threw five interceptions based on his self-critique. He took full ownerships for poor throws to Roddy White on a couple of fourth-down plays in the red zone.

On the Falcons' final drive, Ryan completed 1 of 4 passes for three yards in the red zone. He threw a ball too high to Harry Douglas and maybe too far to the left of Tony Gonzalez. Then on the fourth down, his pass to White was tipped away by Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.

"Roddy has made a ton of plays for us -- and for me, specifically -- since I've been here," Ryan said after the game. " … I've got to try and give him a better opportunity to make a play on that ball."

Ryan, of course, didn't mention the poorly run routes or the eight dropped passed, as graded by Pro Football Focus. He didn't point the finger at right tackle Lamar Holmes, who surrendered a third-down sack in the red zone that forced the Falcons to settle for a field goal. Center Peter Konz also appeared to give up a sack in a game head coach Mike Smith said was by far the best for the offensive line in terms of protection.

"So we need to get rid of those [sacks] because it's our job to keep Matt clean," Konz said, "and also to keep the defense from having those hurries because anytime he feels pressure, we're not going to get the best throw off. So we need to protect a little bit better."

Ryan talked about what he needed to do better in order to correct the team's red zone issues before next Monday night's date with the Jets.

Smith was asked how he would approach Ryan coming off such a difficult and possibly critical loss.

"I think you have to be brutally honest with one another," Smith said. "And I believe this: When you win, the quarterback and the head coach probably get too much credit. When you lose, they get the lion's share of the blame.

"I know that Matt and I are very aware of that. And we have to do what we've always done, and that's put the previous game behind us and move on."