Falcons stuck in travel mode, battered by injuries
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Falcons’ current stretch of road games would be a challenge even under ideal circumstances.
Given Atlanta’s recent lack of success away from the Georgia Dome and its sudden crisis on the offensive line, the brutal travel schedule is especially imposing.
Sunday’s 41-28 loss at Minnesota was the start of a stretch where the Falcons play six of seven games away from Atlanta, including next week’s visit to the Giants. Their only game in Atlanta in that stretch is against the Bears on Oct. 12.
The Falcons are listed as the home team on Oct. 26 — but it’s their longest trip of all, in London against Detroit.
The loss at Minnesota left Atlanta 0-2 on the road this year. They have lost nine of 10 road games since the start of the 2013 season.
Strong wins at home have kept the Falcons (2-2) tied for first in the unimpressive NFC South. Coach Mike Smith isn’t deceived. He said he knows his team can’t expect to make the playoffs without a turnaround on the road.
“That’s something we have to address,” Smith said Monday. “We’ve had conversations as a coaching staff, we’ve had conversations with players. It’s hard to win on the road, but if you’re going to be the type of team that every team is trying to be and that’s play in the second season, you’ve got to at least split on the road.
“Right now we’ve not played anywhere close to be able to get the outcome we want. We’ll continue to talk about it and address it as a staff and as a team.”
Injuries are the most pressing concern.
Atlanta lost three starting offensive linemen — center Joe Hawley (knee), right tackle Lamar Holmes (foot) and left guard Justin Blalock (back) — to injuries in Sunday’s game. Safety William Moore (shoulder) also left the game.
Hawley and Holmes left the stadium on crutches. Tight end Levine Toilolo had to play right tackle in the fourth quarter.
Sticking with his policy of not providing injury news until Wednesday, Smith gave no updates Monday on the crisis on his offensive line. He wouldn’t say if the team is seeking outside help this week.
Peter Konz, who would be the probable fill-in starter at center, said he’s expecting to play against the Giants — just like any week.
“I’m going to treat this week like any other week. I go in there expecting to play,” Konz said Monday.
“I’m just going to go in expecting that we’re going to face a really good defense and I’m going to have to step up.”
Ryan Schraeder, who was inactive against the Vikings, started four games at right tackle as a rookie in 2013. Konz made 15 starts last season, playing center and right guard.
“If I have to be in there, I’ve done it before,” Konz said. “I know I can go in and do a great job. I’m going to have a lot of teammates to help me. ... We’ve got a lot of guys to help out. It’s not going to just be me.”
Konz found a positive spin for the string of road games.
“I think now that we’ve done it a few times, we can just lock in and treat it like any other,” Konz said. “The one thing nice about having several games in a row like that is that you get to get into a routine. You get into a mode where you’re used to traveling. I think that will be good for us.”
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