FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Nothing is going right for the Atlanta Falcons, and coach Mike Smith said he is fully to blame.
“The team is not being coached as well as it needs to be coached,” Smith said Monday, “and I take full responsibility for that.”
Riding a four-game losing streak, the Falcons (2-8) have just two days to practice before hosting New Orleans (8-2) on Thursday night.
Atlanta endured a three-game skid earlier this season, but Smith considers this streak to be the worst of his 15-year NFL career. As an assistant coach in nine years with Baltimore and Jacksonville, Smith was part of two losing seasons. With the Falcons, he had never dropped consecutive games until this year.
“I’ve never experienced this many losses in a row, so it is a tough stretch,” he said. “But you have to continue to work hard and stay focused to win this next game because that’s the only way you stop this streak.”
Since Smith took charge in 2008, Atlanta is 3-8 against the Saints, but the team that lost in the final seconds at the Superdome in Week 1 has seemingly all but disappeared.
The Falcons aren’t winning battles on the line of scrimmage. They aren’t tackling well. They’re tied for next to last in turnover margin.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown nine interceptions in the past four games and seems to get hit on every passing attempt.
Atlanta has allowed 900 total yards in the past two weeks, and opponents this season have averaged almost 29 points per game.
Yes, the Falcons have suffered some critical injuries — the worst being receiver Julio Jones’ season-ending foot surgery last month — but nobody, including Smith, figured on a collapse of this magnitude.
“We were just sloppy across the board, not young guys or old guys, I think everybody,” Ryan said after Sunday’s 41-28 loss at Tampa Bay. “In order to play in this league (and) be competitive in this league, you have to take care of those things.”
Atlanta cut longtime veterans John Abraham, Dunta Robinson, Michael Turner and Tyson Clabo during the offseason. Center Todd McClure, a 13-year starter, and linebacker Mike Peterson, a locker room leader, weren’t offered contracts.
Even so, with a core of Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez, receiver Roddy White, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and safety William Moore, the Falcons still brought back most of the team that earned the NFC’s top playoff seed last year.
“It’s not the players in the locker room,” Smith said. “It’s my responsibility as the head coach to make sure that our guys are prepared and motivated to play.”
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