Falcons frustrated by missed chances in red zone

The bottom line doesn’t look good for the Falcons’ red-zone

production.

After failing to score touchdowns in five of six possessions

inside New England’s 20 last week in a 30-23 loss, the Falcons rank

29th in the league in red-zone production.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said Wednesday the reason for

optimism is the offense is providing so many opportunities. Atlanta

leads the NFL with 18 scoring chances inside the 20.

The obvious bad news is the Falcons have scored only seven

touchdowns in those 18 opportunities for a 38.9 percent success

rate.

Better production was expected from an offense stacked with

accomplished stars quarterback Matt Ryan, receivers Roddy White and

Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Steven

Jackson.

Jackson, signed from the Rams in the offseason, was seen as the

missing piece on a team that played in last year’s NFC championship

game following a 13-3 season.

The Falcons (1-3) already have matched last season’s loss total.

Atlanta needs better red-zone production in Monday night’s game

against the New York Jets to snap the first two-game regular-season

skid in six seasons with coach Mike Smith.

”It’s frustrating and encouraging at the same time because

we’ve made a lot of those plays in the past,” Koetter said. ”We

have really good players and they’ve made plays in the past, so

that’s why it’s an across-the-board issue. It would be a simple

thing to solve if we could just say `It’s this one thing. Let’s fix

it.’ But it’s more than that.”

Injuries have been a problem.

Jackson could miss his third straight game with a hamstring

injury. White has played in every game, but has been slowed by an

ankle sprain. The offensive line lost projected starting right

tackle Mike Johnson before the season and could be without left

tackle Sam Baker (knee) this week.

The Falcons were excited about the role Jackson would play in

short-yardage situations and in the red zone. Koetter, who said

running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling have played well,

wouldn’t blame the red-zone woes on Jackson’s injury.

”Sure, we’re anxious to get Steven back,” Koetter said. ”At

the same time, Jacquizz and Jason are doing a really nice job

during his absence. We want Steven back out there as soon as we can

get him back out there for the long haul. Whenever that is, the

docs and trainers will let us know.”

Jackson did not practice Tuesday. The team was off

Wednesday.

Ryan accepted blame for the missed scoring chances against the

Patriots. The Falcons’ last scoring opportunity ended when Ryan’s

pass for White in the end zone was a little off, allowing

cornerback Aqib Talib to bat away the ball.

Smith said the problems are ”not just one area, not just one

group.”

”We had some protection issues, we had some routes that weren’t

run right, we had some drops, we had some missed throws,” Smith

said. ”I can assure you we are addressing it as a coaching staff

with our team.”

Koetter said with just a little better success inside the 20,

the Falcons could be one of the league’s most productive

offenses.

”If you just score three more touchdowns, 55 percent in the red

zone is going to get you top 10 in the NFL every year,” he

said.

That’s little consolation this week.

”The bottom line is we’re not making the plays, so as a

coaching staff we’ve got to give them better plays and the players,

whatever we do give them, they’ve got to make the best of it,”

Koetter said. ”That’s just the bottom line. We’ve got to do

better.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org