Jets-Falcons Preview

While the Atlanta Falcons caught their fair share of breaks last
season, they haven’t been nearly as fortunate this time around.

A visit from the New York Jets and their struggling rookie
quarterback could be just what they need to regroup.

Hoping to avoid losing three straight for the first time during
the Matt Ryan era, the Falcons try to add to Geno Smith’s woes
Monday night.

Atlanta (1-3) opened a franchise-best 8-0 in 2012 before
finishing 13-3, with seven of those wins coming by seven points or
less. The Falcons, though, haven’t really seen things go their way
in their first four games, which have been decided by a combined 24
points.

“You just don’t panic,” said wideout Roddy White, who continues
to play through an ankle injury. “You are what you earn in this
league, so we’re 1-3. You just go out there and correct the
problems that you have and get ready for the next game. We know at
1-3 that we can’t get back to .500 after one game.”

After giving up the go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds left in a
27-23 loss at Miami in Week 3, Atlanta fell 30-23 to undefeated New
England last Sunday night. Ryan completed 34 of 54 passes for a
career-high 421 yards and two touchdowns, but the Falcons’
potential game-tying drive was stopped on the Patriots’ 10-yard
line in the final minute.

They haven’t lost three in a row since a six-game skid in
2007.

“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be,” said Ryan, who
dropped to 34-6 at home. “We’ve got to claw ourselves back to where
we want to be. It’s a long haul. There’s still a long way to
go.”

Atlanta’s troubles can largely be attributed to its inability to
convert in the red zone. The Falcons, who failed to score a
touchdown on five of six possessions inside New England’s 20, rank
29th in the league in red-zone production at 38.9 percent.

“It’s killing us right now,” White said. “It’s something that we
continue to work at, but we’ve got to do a little more and win some
one-on-one battles, especially when it’s time for one person to
make the play when it’s presented.”

The defense has also struggled, giving up 26.0 points per game
to rank 22nd in the NFL, a big step back from last season’s mark of
18.7. Atlanta has also recorded just seven sacks.

The Falcons, though, would appear to have a favorable matchup
against Smith, who is tied for the league lead with 11 turnovers
after throwing eight interceptions and losing three fumbles.

Four of those turnovers came last Sunday in a 38-13 rout at
Tennessee. Smith threw for 289 yards and a score but was sacked
five times, bringing his season total to 14.

“It’s just taking ownership to your mistakes and manning up,” he
said. “A lot falls on my shoulders as far as taking care of the
ball, but that’s something I have to do.

“No one wants to make those mistakes. It’s something that has to
stop now in order for us to progress and to get better as an
offense and as a team.”

The Jets (2-2) are on the verge of opening 0-3 on the road for
the second time in three seasons, and while Atlanta hasn’t been
playing up to par, they know they have a difficult task in
store.

Julio Jones leads the league with 481 receiving yards and Tony
Gonzalez is coming off his best game of the year, hauling in 12
receptions for 149 yards and two scores last week.

“They’re big, fast. It’s definitely going to be a huge challenge
for us,” coach Rex Ryan said. “Playing on a Monday night with their
crowd, we know it’s going to be a very hostile environment.”

Giving up only 79.3 rushing yards per game, New York will face
an Atlanta team which continues to play without injured All-Pro
running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) and has run the ball 31
times for just 94 yards in splitting its first two home games.

New York has some injury concerns of its own with starting
receivers Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (concussion)
banged up. If they can’t go, David Nelson could be thrown into the
fire after signing Wednesday.

Running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) is also uncertain to be
available, but Mike Goodson is set to debut after serving a
four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse
policy.