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Falcons’ free-fall continues as offense shut down in loss

December 2, 2018
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Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Ryan could find no easy answers after the Atlanta Falcons’ offense hit a new low in their fourth straight loss.

Ryan threw for only 131 yards in Sunday’s 26-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens , his lowest total of his 11-year career in a game he has started and finished.

The Falcons (4-8) have been held below 20 points in each of their four straight losses. The lack of production against the Ravens stands out even in that string of offensive ineptitude.

Atlanta managed only 131 total yards, its fewest in almost 20 years. One of the team’s two touchdowns came on Vic Beasley Jr.’s 74-yard fumble return.

“I think today is the most disappointing because we never really got anything going,” Ryan said. “That makes it tough when you really are not moving it and you’re letting them kind of dictate the game. That’s a tough pill to swallow.”

One week after the team’s top healthy running backs, Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith, combined for six yards on 12 carries in a 31-17 loss at the Saints , the ground game again was a major disappointment.

Smith led Atlanta with 22 yards on seven carries. Coleman managed on eight yards on six carries.

It would be tempting to blame the lack of run production on the absence of Devonta Freeman, but he has been on injured reserve since the second week of the season . The Falcons seemed to have overcome Freeman’s groin injury, as well as season-ending injuries to starting guards Brandon Fusco and Andy Levitre, until their recent collapse.

Atlanta was held to 44 total yards, including 3 yards on the ground, in the second half when the Ravens outscored the Falcons 16-6.

“We are not opening the holes and the spacing is not on the level that we have come to understand is acceptable,” coach Dan Quinn said. “We have to continue to dig in and find ways because that part of the game has to be ... working the way we need to. When that is out of whack, you become one-dimensional.”

The Falcons tweaked their offensive line, moving Zane Beadles into the starting unit ahead of Ben Garland at right guard. Quinn said he didn’t know if he’ll stick with that change and acknowledged his options are limited.

Atlanta can’t finish with a winning record. The Falcons show little resemblance to the team that made two straight playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl berth following the 2016 season.

They hadn’t been held to so few total yards since Dec. 12, 1999, when they had 105 in a loss to San Francisco.

Now, the Falcons are simply trying to survive. Ryan has been sacked nine times in the last two weeks, including three by the Ravens.

“We just aren’t making plays,” left tackle Jake Matthews said. “We are just not putting ourselves in good situations. Obviously, it’s showing. We have a lot of things to get better at.”

Matthews said the Falcons options are to “either throw in the towel or go back to work and get better. I know the mentality of this team. I already know what we are going to do. We are going to work at it and get better at it until it’s right.”

Quinn was grim after leaving his players following the loss.

“Tough locker room, and it is because they care like they do,” said Quinn, in his fourth season. “I told them this is as challenged as we’ve been in a while, certainly since I’ve been here.”

As is his custom, team owner Arthur Blank attended Quinn’s postgame news conference. Afterward, he said Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff still have his trust.

“It’s difficult for our fans, difficult for our organization,” Blank said. ”... We’re in a difficult time right now, but they’ll figure out the answers. ... I haven’t lost any faith in coach Quinn or Thomas.”

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