Atlanta hoped running back Steven Jackson’s return from a hamstring injury would provide a boost. Jackson had so little running room in Sunday’s 27-13 loss at Arizona that coach Mike Smith said Monday he couldn’t even evaluate the running back.
It was that kind of day.
Smith said the problems were too widespread to pinpoint any one area.
“We haven’t been consistent in anything we’ve done in seven games,” Smith said. “That’s the entire football team, the entire coaching staff, and we all take responsibility for it.”
One year after playing in the NFC championship game, the Falcons (2-5) have lost four of their last five. They beat only winless Tampa Bay in that span.
Any momentum gained from the home win over the hapless Buccaneers two weeks ago was obliterated by the ugly loss to the Cardinals. Matt Ryan threw four interceptions, was sacked four times and hit 11 more times. Jackson ran for only 6 yards on 11 carries as the Falcons had only 27 yards rushing, falling below 30 yards for the second straight week.
Jackson returned after missing four starts and said his hamstring gave him no problem. It was a rare bit of good news on a dismal day.
“I felt fine,” Jackson said after the game. “I felt encouraged to keep moving forward with it and not miss a beat.”
Jackson’s longest run was only 4 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers had two carries for 8 yards. Ryan’s one run for 13 yards left him as the team’s leading rusher.
Smith said the offensive line didn’t deserve all the blame for the poor run-blocking.
“It’s hard to really see anything (Sunday) in terms of our ability to run the football,” Smith said. “We weren’t able to move the line of scrimmage, whether it was Steven Jackson or Jacquizz Rodgers carrying the football. They really never got the chance to get it going.
“To run the football, you’ve got to win the line of scrimmage, and it’s not just the offensive line that is involved when you win the line of scrimmage. It’s the line of scrimmage at the tight end position and at wide receiver position as well.”
The lack of balance forced Ryan to attempt a career-high 61 passes. The Falcons have lost five of six games when Ryan has thrown 52 or more passes in his career. The team is 3-14 in the 17 games with Ryan’s most career pass attempts, according to STATS LLC.
“We need to get the balance going,” Jackson said. “We need to be able to run the ball. We need to be able to convert on third down. We need to be able to do a lot of things better than we did.”
Ryan completed 34 passes for 301 yards, including a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Drew Davis. He was under constant pressure but blamed himself for the four interceptions, the second-highest total of his career.
“I can’t do it,” Ryan said. “You can’t make those plays and expect your team to win. You can’t make those plays and think you’re giving your team a chance to win. I have to clean those up. I got to find a way to make sure those don’t happen again.”
Smith said the interceptions, sacks, poor blocking and penalties made for the season’s “most inconsistent” effort.
“We have been consistently inconsistent through the first seven games,” Smith said. “... Through the first seven games this was probably the one that was the most inconsistent in a number of areas.”
For the second straight week, Harry Douglas was Atlanta’s leading receiver. He had 12 catches for 121 yards.
Julio Jones was lost for the season with a foot injury earlier this month and Roddy White missed his second straight game with hamstring and ankle injuries.
Smith said White is making progress but didn’t say if the receiver would be ready to practice today.
The coach said the team was not pursuing a deal before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.
“Absolutely no consideration of that at all,” Smith said.
There was speculation that tight end Tony Gonzalez could be traded back to Kansas City, where he began his career, so he could have a better opportunity for his first Super Bowl.