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Ryan continues to struggle as Falcons crumble around him

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ATLANTA -- Pass protection has been poor, there is almost no running game to speak of and age and injuries have decimated the receiving corps. It all continues to add up to a very difficult season for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan following Thursday night's home loss to the New Orleans Saints that dropped the Falcons to 2-9.

Ryan passed for 292 yards against the Saints, but did not have a touchdown pass for the first time in 18 games, including the playoffs. The last time he didn't have at least one touchdown pass was in a 17-13 victory over Arizona on Nov. 18, 2011. He threw a career-high five interceptions in that game.

The offense scored just one touchdown in a game for the fourth time this season. Much to the dismay of several fans, with the Falcons trailing 14-10 late in the second quarter, Ryan elected to slide on a third-and-10 instead of trying to barge into the end zone for a touchdown.

Ryan did a nifty job of eluding pressure and got down at the 6-yard line. He appeared to have enough room to make it to the 3, where he would have had to fly over or power through a couple of defenders.

"It was early in the game," Ryan said. "You've got to take the points. You've got to make the right play. I felt like that was the right play and you've got to take those three points."

It was the last points for the game for the Falcons in the 17-13 loss.

"We have to trust that we're going to continue to get down there and continue to score touchdowns," Ryan said. "In that situation I felt like that was the right play."

The Falcons got the ball back with 7:53 to play on their 9-yard line. Over the past five season, that has usually been Ryan throws on his "Matty Ice" cape and drives the team down to victory. He got the Falcons on the move, but the pass blocking broke down and the drive stalled at the 34.

"We were backed up," Ryan said. "I thought we did a nice job, after the first play was a sack, of getting ourselves back into it. We got a couple of yards on the second down situation and then came up with a big third down conversion with Roddy (White).

"I thought he did a good job. We kind of broke off our route and just played ball on that third down conversion. That kind of got us going. We just stalled out and that's the disappointing part on that last drive."

It was 4th-and-15 when Falcons coach Mike Smith elected to attempt a 52-yard field goal. Matt Bryant made the first one, but Saints coach Sean Payton called timeout to ice Bryant, who was wide left on the second kick.

Ryan supported the decision not to go for the fourth-and-15.

"We are prepared for that every week," Ryan said. "We have those plays in (the game plan.) We trust Smitty. I thought it was the right call."

Ryan was sacked five times and hit 10 times against the Saints. The Falcons are searching for answers before they play the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 1.

"That's one of those things, you've got to keep playing," Ryan said. "I actually thought our offensive line did a pretty good job tonight. We came out and we were physical. I thought that they fought really hard."

--RB Steven Jackson had 16 rushes for 63 yards and scored his first rushing touchdown for the Falcons.

"I thought we saw improvement in the run game," Jackson said. "I thought the offensive line did a good job of coming out fast and giving me some room. I thought we moved the ball and unfortunately, at inopportune times we made mistakes and that's what ended up hurting us."

REPORT CARD vs. SAINTS

PASSING OFFENSE: C - Matt Ryan completed 30 of 39 passes for 292 yards. He finished with a passer rating of 97.4. Ryan did the right thing by sliding in the second quarter and saving a field goal opportunity rather than a long shot attempt at reaching the end zone. It's pretty amazing that he still hung in the pocket and had the Falcons in position to win while being sacked five times and hit 10. Ryan completed 11 straight during a stretch in the second half and tied his season-high with a 76.9 completion percentage. He completed passes to nine different receivers. Harry Douglas and Darius Johnson carried the group as they combined for 15 catches for 146 yards. Johnson's game was marred by a fourth-quarter fumble in the red zone that killed a promising drive. Johnson's six catches were tied for the fourth most in a single game by a Falcons undrafted rookie behind Harmon Wages (9), Tyrone Brown (8) and Alfred Jenkins (7). Roddy White had just two catches for 24 yards and has not had over 40 yards receiving since his return from injury. TE Tony Gonzalez finished the game with four catches for 43 yards. He extended his streak of games with a reception to 206, which is the second-longest streak in NFL history.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Steven Jackson rushed 16 rushes for 63 yards and his first rushing touchdown with the team. He ran with authority on the draws early and found some extra yards. He also added three receptions for 16 yards. Why Antone Smith only received one carry was bizarre. He ran for 11 yards and moved the pile. Jacquizz Rodgers had a nice run after the catch on his 22-yard reception. Jason Snelling, back with the team after his brush with the law, had two catches for 19 yards. Jackson has totaled 57 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks sixth among active players. Jackson's 66 total touchdowns are the fifth most among active running backs. Additionally, he tied Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams for the most rushing touchdowns against New Orleans by any active player with seven.

PASS DEFENSE: C - William Moore can't bite on that double-move by Saints tight end Jimmy Graham that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown. Embattled free safety Thomas DeCoud had a strong game. He finished with seven tackles and one pass defensed. Rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant played well in coverage, making five tackles (four solo) with three passes defensed, including two pass breakups on crucial third-down plays. This season, Trufant has recorded 13 passes defensed, which ranks second in the NFL among rookie cornerbacks behind Kansas City's Marcus Cooper (14). Peria Jerry had the Falcons' only sack and it was a good one. He pummeled Saints quarterback Drew Brees with a vicious hit. Jerry has a career-high 3.5 sacks this season.

RUSH DEFENSE: D - Corey Peters had another strong outing and set the tone when he beat his man and stuffed Saints running back Mark Ingram on the first play of the game. Jonathan Babineaux led the group with four tackles. Osi Umenyiora had only one assist and one quarterback hit. The Saints rushed for 103 yards on 25 carries (4.1 per carry). Paul Worrilow led the team with nine tackles, including a tackle for a 3-yard loss on the second play of the game. It was Sean Weatherspoon's second game back from his foot injury and he is still shaking off the rust. He had four tackles. The unit missed 14 tackles according to the coaches' film review stats. "That's too many," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C - The Saints successfully iced kicker Matt Bryant, who hooked a 52-yard field in the fourth quarter that would have cut the lead to 1. He made the first one, but Saints coach Sean Payton called a timeout. Punter Matt Bosher averaged 45.3 yards net on three points. Robert McClain and Antone Smith had one tackle each.

COACHING: C-minus - The coaches had both units ready to play. The defense started with a three-and-out and the offense scored a touchdown on their opening drive for just the third time this season.
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