ATLANTA (AP) — Raheem Morris saw the ugly truth behind the season-high eight sacks allowed by the Atlanta Falcons.
The interim coach said it was unfair to place full blame for the sacks on the offensive line in the Falcons’ 24-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Indeed, no unit deserved all the responsibility for the problems in the game. This lopsided loss was a complete team effort.
Atlanta’s wide receivers failed to get open. Quarterback Matt Ryan sometimes held the ball too long. An ineffective running game gave Saints pass rushers the confidence to put pressure on Ryan. The defense gave up 378 yards, including 168 and three touchdowns on the ground, to a Saints offense that was missing Drew Brees.
Morris on Monday also said offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter would change a play call or two if given the opportunity.
Clearly, the Falcons could not afford to abandon their running game and become one-dimensional, especially against the Saints’ pass rush.
Just as clearly, the success of the New Orleans pass rush was no fluke. The Saints sacked Ryan nine times in a 26-18 win over the Falcons the previous time the teams met on Nov. 24, 2019. That matched the most times Ryan has been sacked in his 13-year career. He was sacked nine times by Carolina in the Panthers’ 21-20 win on Dec. 29, 2013.
The Falcons (3-7) face more stressful tests ahead, including Sunday’s home game against Las Vegas, and a rematch with the Saints in two weeks. It may be difficult to recapture the good-feel vibe generated by three wins in the first four games under Morris.
The loss to New Orleans was perhaps the most decisive of the season for Atlanta. Unlike one-point defeats to the Lions and Cowboys, this game couldn’t be blamed on one play.
Younghoe Koo was good on field-goal attempts from 52, 51 and 28 yards. He has made 24 of 25 attempts this season, including each of his five tries from at least 50 yards.
There will be tough offseason decisions at many positions for a new coach and general manager. There will be no need to search for a new placekicker.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Falcons too often faced third-and-long plays. The Saints could commit to their pass rush, and that led to Atlanta’s dismal 2-for-14 mark on third-down conversions.
“They absolutely dominated us on third down,” Morris said.
In the first four games under Morris, the Falcons’ average time of possession (35:12) led the NFL. That fell to 26:12 against the Saints.
Rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell had six tackles and created the only turnover for Atlanta’s defense by stripping the ball from quarterback Taysom Hill for a forced fumble. Linebacker Foye Oluokun made the recovery. Terrell, a first-round pick, continues to gain momentum. He had his first interception against Minnesota on Oct. 18.
The Falcons ran the ball only 14 times, including season-low totals of eight carries for 26 yards by Todd Gurley. His long run was 7 yards, another season low.
Gurley had at least 14 carries in every other game this season. He has averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per carry in six consecutive games. He has rushed for 610 yards with nine touchdowns.
Once again, wide receiver Julio Jones is battling a hamstring injury. He has missed two full games and large portions of two other games with hamstring issues. He left Sunday’s game with tightness in his left hamstring early in the game and played only a few snaps in the second half.
On Monday, Morris said Jones’ status against the Raiders may not be known until pregame warmups. That’s a good indication Jones isn’t expected to be available for much, if any, practice this week.
Jones’ injury came as Calvin Ridley returned from a foot injury to catch five passes for 90 yards.
0 — For the fourth time in 2020, Ryan didn’t have a touchdown pass. That is his most games in a season without a scoring pass since five in his 2008 rookie season. He has 15 touchdown passes with seven interceptions this season.
The Falcons play the first of back-to-back home games when the Raiders (6-4) visit next Sunday. The Raiders had three straight wins before a 35-31 loss to Kansas City on Sunday night.
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