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Free-falling Falcons start to look to future in fifth straight loss

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Free-falling Falcons start to look to future in fifth straight loss

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A dejected Matt Ryansnapped off his chin strap and screamed in the air after a fumbled snap in the red zone -- when center Alex Mack hit a motioning Mohamed Sanu with the ball -- led to a missed scoring opportunity in the fourth quarter.

Ryan's rage was indicative of how frustrating the season has been for the reeling Atlanta Falcons. And Sunday's implosion at Lambeau Field marked another sign of why it's time for the Falcons to turn their attention toward evaluating the roster and fixing the issues for 2019.

Coach Dan Quinn figured his team would get things corrected after he called for the locker room leaders to step up and take charge. Instead, turnovers, penalties, execution issues, and an overall lack of discipline plagued the 4-9 Falcons again as they dropped their fifth straight game after a 34-20 loss to the Packers. It assured a below-.500 mark for the first time under Quinn.

What was Quinn's message to the team afterward?

"I said, 'As dark as it is, the men that will get it right here in these three weeks are the men that are standing in this room,'" Quinn said. "Just wanting it to get better isn't a great way for real progress. You've got to make changes that are consistent to playing better."

So what's next for the Falcons? Quinn doesn't want to look at the big picture, but there were signs of the Falcons spinning ahead to see what can be done to resolve a variety of problems, even if those signs were minor. The most obvious was the benching of right tackle Ryan Schraeder, who was signed to five-year, $31.5 million extension ($12.5 million guaranteed) in November 2016. Schraeder, who is signed through 2021, gave way to Ty Sambrailo, acquired from Denver in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. It was the major move along the offensive line, with right guard Ben Garland benched in favor of Zane Beadles.

Schraeder was asked what he believes the benching means regarding his future with the team. The Falcons will have to address the line in the draft.

"I'm not to sure, at this point," he said. "We'll see how the rest of the three games play out and go from there. ... I've got to get whatever they're telling me to do right and hopefully get back in the starting lineup."


Matt Ryan, getting sacked by Clay Matthews, says "it's OK to be frustrated" about the Falcons' struggles. "It's part of this game." Jeffrey Phelps/AP Photo

The Falcons also gave rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver, a second-round draft pick from Colorado, a more extended look against the Packers after starter Robert Alford struggled early in the contest. But Oliver said being in the rotation was part of the plan going into the game as he lined up at both corner spots and was part of the dime package along with Alford and fellow starter Desmond Trufant.

"Just getting more reps, basically," Oliver said. "It was good to get out there and be able to play. I think [my play] was a good. As a team, though, we missed the mark. We need to play a lot better. That goes for everyone across the board. We know what we're capable of."

Quinn also utilized running back Brian Hillsome at fullback and gave safety Ryan Neal a look on special teams. But Quinn didn't make a big deal out of giving other players long looks, although it's something that would be wise to do the remainder of the season.

Despite some glaring holes, the Falcons have enough talent to be competitive, with players such as the one-time MVP Ryan, five-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones, and one-time Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones, just to name a few. But they've sorely missed key injured players such as two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman (groin), Pro Bowl strong safety Keanu Neal (ACL), free safety Ricardo Allen(Achilles), and Deion Jones (foot) before he returned to the lineup last week against the Ravens.

"It just comes down to everyone doing their job," defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. said. "Every team makes mistakes. Whoever makes the most mistakes is probably going to lose the game. Sometimes, things go your way. Teams that normally execute greatly, they are normally great teams, and they normally find themselves in the playoffs."


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