By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sinking Falcons feel pressure in wild-card race
Placeholder Image

FLOWERY BRANCH — Roddy White says the Atlanta Falcons have no margin for error in their final six games after falling to .500 with four losses in their last five games.

White, the 2008 Pro Bowl receiver, didn’t hesitate when asked how the Falcons must fare in the six games if they hope to make the playoffs.

"Win them all," White said Monday. "We’ve got to win, man. That’s the biggest thing for us right now. We can’t have no setbacks. We’ve got to go out there and win six games. If we win six games we’ll control our own destiny."

Added White: "It’s the playoffs right now."

The Falcons (5-5) need six straight wins to match last season’s 11-5 record. A 5-1 finish could be good enough for a playoff berth at 10-6.

White said the fall from 4-1 to .500 was a bitter reality.

"It (stinks)," he said. "We haven’t played well enough to win games."

After the NFC division leaders, the Giants, Philadelphia, and Green Bay are one game ahead of the Falcons in the wild-card race. All have better conference records than Atlanta’s 4-4 mark.

The encouraging news for the Falcons is four of their final six games are at the Georgia Dome, where they are 4-0 this year and 11-1 in coach Mike Smith’s two seasons.

The Falcons play Tampa Bay in Atlanta on Sunday in their first of three straight home games.

"We’re real, real excited about that," White said. "Maybe we can get back on a winning streak."

The Falcons were without their top two running backs, Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood, against the Giants. Smith said he didn’t know if Turner (ankle) and Norwood (hip) would return to practice on Wednesday. Norwood has missed five straight games.

Even without the top two running backs, Atlanta pushed the Giants to overtime with 14 fourth-quarter points. Jason Snelling had 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Matt Ryan had success in the second half in the no-huddle offense. He passed for 262 yards and threw fourth-quarter scoring passes to Eric Weems and Tony Gonzalez.

Smith said Monday he’s looking for answers on defense after Sunday’s 34-31 overtime loss to the New York Giants.

"I would say all options are open," Smith said on Monday. "In terms of the way we played pass defense yesterday, we have to look at everything and everybody. ... We are going to evaluate as a staff not only scheme but also personnel and come up with the answers we feel give us the best chance to be successful."

The Falcons gave up 456 yards to the Giants and rank 27th with their average of 379.5 yards allowed. New York’s Eli Manning was 25 of 39 passing for 384 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith said he was "not calling for a defensive shakeup" but said "you have to go to work and put your head down and evaluate everything."

"We obviously did not play the pass very well," Smith said. "It’s a combination like I’ve mentioned many times of the pass rush, the linebacker play and the secondary play. We have to continue to work on that."

Smith said the defense played better in the red zone in Atlanta’s 4-1 start than in the last five games.

The cornerbacks, including Chris Houston, Tye Hill and Brent Grimes, have been in the spotlight, but the Falcons also have struggled to establish a consistent pass rush.

The Falcons had only one sack against Manning.

Defensive end John Abraham, who set a career high with 16 and a half sacks last season, has 3 and a half this year.

"He hasn’t had the production this year," Smith said. "We have to continue to evaluate how we are using him and how we are getting him free."

Sign up for our e-newsletters