NFC South: Atlanta Falcons

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m., and several names such as Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson, Oakland's Justin Tuck, and even Atlanta's Osi Umenyiora have been mentioned in trade rumors.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank always is looking for ways to improve his team. But he doesn't appear to be a big proponent of in-season trades.

"I think in general, the personnel department and the coaching department, they have an extended period of time, starting during the season, where they are constantly evaluating themselves and constantly evaluating their talent, player-wise and coaching-wise, and reflecting on what changes they can make as they go into the following year," Blank explained to "And obviously, it's a long offseason, both through free agency and the draft, to prepare for the following season.

"Once the season starts, it's not easy to make those changes because the chemistry is kind of set in the locker room. You can move it and change it and the coaches can motivate it differently. But players, they are used to working in certain schemes both offensively and defensively. It's not as easy to drop players in and out as it might be in other sports. If you're playing golf, you might be able to drop someone else into the foursome to go out and play because chemistry doesn't make a lot of difference. In this sport, it makes a huge difference."

Coach Mike Smith still believes the Falcons can make a big turnaround in the second half of the season so trading away players at this point might be viewed as a sign of waving the white towel.

According to ESPN Statistics and Information, the Falcons currently have $3,678,774 in cap room. That would indicate the Falcons would be sellers rather than buyers if they're involved in any trade by 4 p.m.

The Film Don't Lie: Falcons

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
A weekly look at what the Atlanta Falcons must fix:

A team with as many shortcomings as the Falcons cannot afford mental mistakes. That's why during the bye week, they have to reflect on what went wrong in the final minutes of Sunday's 22-21 loss to the Lions and make sure those types of mistakes don't happen again, especially if they play in any close games moving forward.

The Falcons had two penalties in the late stages that stopped the clock with the Lions out of timeouts. Rookie center James Stone had a holding penalty with 1 minutes, 55 seconds left in regulation that kept the clock from running after a Steven Jackson run up the middle. Chalk that up to an inexperienced player getting caught up in the anxiety of the moment. But the Falcons, as a team, have been whistled for offensive holding a league-high 18 times.

A more egregious error was veteran defensive tackle Paul Soliai's defensive holding penalty with 24 seconds remaining. It again stopped the clock and gave the Lions a chance to regroup. And a review of the film showed just how blatant Soliai was with his hold.

"It was a good call," Soliai said Monday. "Can't complain about the call. And you can't bring the game back. But I guess I have to do something different and play the scoop block different. I've been doing this for eight years, but a holding is a holding ... I just have to go get ready for Tampa."

Those two late-game blunders, along with a dropped pass by Julio Jones with 1:50 left, played into the poor clock management the Falcons can ill-afford in close games -- but that's not to say any of the remaining games will come down to the wire.

And by the way, coach Mike Smith had no issue with the timeout he called with 25 seconds left in regulation and the Lions driving.
Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith had his team meet late last night, then the players were given the rest of the week off with a "Falcons-on-Falcons" practice scheduled for Monday.

Yes, the bye couldn't have come at a better time for the 2-6 Falcons, who need to rest and regroup after a grueling loss to Detroit and long week in London.

The week off will give a number of players a chance to heal.

Like rookie left tackle Jake Matthews, who has been battling through an ankle injury since the season opener and then aggravated it again in a Week 5 loss to the New York Giants.

Like explosive running back Antone Smith, who suffered some sort of neck injury in Sunday's 22-21 loss to the Lions. An obviously stiff Smith was spotted in the locker room Monday night but could not comment on his status.

Like defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who missed the London game due to a foot injury.

Or like rookie linebacker Prince Shembo, who continues to be plagued by knee issues and gave the starting job back to Joplo Bartu. Shembo expects to be back to full strength after the bye.

Not to mention all four of the team's top receivers --- Julio Jones (ankle), Roddy White (knee, hamstring), Harry Douglas (foot), and Devin Hester (ankle, hamstring) -- have battled injuries at some point during the season.

And the Falcons, with five offensive linemen already on season-ending injured reserve, saw tackle Gabe Carimi go down with an ankle injury against the Lions.

"It comes at the right time for us to get some players healthy," Smith said of the bye. "We've got a lot of guys who are nicked up and banged up that may not necessarily be on the injury report. But they are nicked and banged up."

The Falcons' next game is Nov. 9 at Tampa Bay.
Tyson Jackson threw his hands straight up in celebration. Joplo Bartu and Sean Baker emphatically flailed their arms in unison to signal "no good."

Yes, the Atlanta Falcons thought they had reason to celebrate across the pond in London. They figured their losing streak ended at four when Lions kicker Matt Prater's 43-yard field goal sailed wide right.

Guess again.

In one of a handful of second-half plays that symbolized the Falcons' disastrous season, the call didn't go their way. Although the Lions were whistled for delay of game on the field goal, the 5-yard penalty was a dead-ball foul and led to the Lions getting another opportunity.

[+] EnlargeGolden Tate
AP Photo/Tim IrelandThe Falcons blew a couple of coverages against the Lions' Golden Tate in London.
"The clock was stopped, so there was not going to be a 10-second runoff," Falcons coach Mike Smith conceded. "If clock would have been running, it would have been a 10-second runoff, [was] the way it was explained to me."

Instead, Prater got another chance and nailed the 48-yard game winner as time expired in an improbable, 22-21 Lions win.

The Falcons led 21-0 with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, then suffered the most catastrophic collapse in team history.

"Very disappointed in the way that we played in the second half of the football game," Smith said. "You can't make the mistakes that we made in second half against a good football team because when you do, they're going to come back and haunt you. And they did.

"We never got on track offensively in the second half. Things went so easy in the first half. And we did not play nearly the type of football in the second half as we did in the first half. In turn, we did not get the win."

They Falcons came to London optimistic about remaining in the NFC South race and would have been in the mix with Carolina (3-4-1) losing to Seattle. The Falcons left 2-6 and with Smith's hot seat on fire.

But Smith wasn't all to blame. He watched quarterback Matt Ryan, typically a good decision-maker, make arguably the worst throw of his NFL career when he threw a pass across the field right into the arms of cornerback Cassius Vaughn late in the third quarter. The interception and 45-yard return set up a 20-yard Prater field goal and gave the Lions just enough momentum for their fourth-quarter surge.

Smith also saw undrafted center James Stone make a rookie mistake in his first career start. Stone was whistled for holding on second-and-9 from the Lions' 39-yard line with 1 minute, 50 seconds left in regulation and the Falcons clinging to a 21-19 lead. The penalty stopped the clock for a team with no timeouts left.

Then on the next play, on third-and-10, Julio Jones dropped a pass that led to another clock stoppage. Had he gained a few yards, maybe the Falcons would have been in position for a game-sealing field goal.

Or maybe if Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter had gone with a few conservative run plays, there would have been no holding call, no dropped pass and no time for the Lions to make that comeback. But again, this is the second consecutive season in which things just seem to be imploding for the Falcons, so they've become accustomed to expecting the worst.

The Falcons and their high-powered offense again struggled in the fourth quarter, where they've been outscored 84-24 this season. They were shut out in the fourth quarter Sunday.

The defense looked respectable in the first half, then fell back into old bad habits. Safety Kemal Ishmael was victimized on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate on third-and-25. (You read that correctly.) Cornerback Desmond Trufant seemed to pass off coverage on Tate to Ishmael.

That was a big defensive gaffe, but not the most costly. Before Prater's game winner, the Falcons allowed Stafford to hit Tate for a 32-yard gain on first-and-10 from the Lions' 7-yard line with 1 minute, 38 seconds left in regulation. That should never happen when a team is backed up that deep.

Defensive tackle Paul Soliai also was whistled for defensive holding on third-and-9 with 24 seconds left. The 5-yard penalty didn't factor much in the grand scheme because Prater and the Lions lost those 5 yards, but Soliai's penalty gave the Lions another set of downs and a chance to work their way closer.

As for the Falcons, it's hard to imagine them working their way out of this one. Don't expect Smith to be relieved of his duties during the bye week, particularly when owner Arthur Blank already talked about evaluating the situation after the season. But don't anticipate a sudden Falcons turnaround, either, with two NFC South road games after the bye and games remaining against Green Bay, Arizona and Pittsburgh.

The sight of Smith squatting on the ground red-faced near the end of Sunday's game was telling. It was a microcosm of the Falcons' all-but-lost season.
Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson reached 11,000 career rushing yards in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions in London.

Jackson had a tough, 5-yard run on first-and-goal to reach the milestone. He nearly scored but followed with a 1-yard touchdown run two plays later.

He became the 19th player in NFL history to accomplish the feat, joining the likes of Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.

"It's an amazing feat," Jackson said two games ago. "Whenever I do eclipse the 11,000-yard mark, it will mean a lot to me. But like football, I’ve done it with the success of a lot of my teammates over the years. Good games, bad games, they all compile to this milestone. I relish in it, but at the same time, keep it going."
Atlanta Falcons receiver Harry Douglas, who missed the last four games with a deep bruise in his left foot, is active for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions in London.

Douglas was a game-time decision after being limited in practice this past week. The Falcons missed his ability to be a middle-of-the-field threat.

Inactive for the Falcons is defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux, who is recovering from a foot injury. Babineaux missed practice all last week.

The Falcons won't have to face Lions stars Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. Both are sidelined with ankle injuries. And the Lions also are without starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who is coming off a concussion.

Here are the full inactives for Sunday:

FALCONS: DL Jonathan Babineaux, QB Sean Renfree, CB Javier Arenas, LB Tyler Starr, T Cameron Bradfield, T Jonathan Scott, WR Freddie Martino.

LIONS: WR Calvin Johnson, RB Reggie Bush, TE Joseph Fauria, TE Brandon Pettigrew, TE Eric Ebron, OT LaAdrian Waddle.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, still recovering from an ankle injury, continued his usual routine of being limited to start the week during Wednesday's practice in London.

Jones' ankle typically is sore early in the week and fine by game time. It's been the same process since the Minnesota game in Week 4.

Also limited Wednesday were left guard Justin Blalock (back) and linebacker Prince Shembo (back). Wide receiver Harry Douglas (foot) and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (foot) were held out of practice. Babineaux was on the injury report with a knee injury last week but still played.

For Detroit, receiver Calvin Johnson was listed as limited coming off a sprained ankle, while offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle's status has become a concern due to a concussion.
One would have figured Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White would feel a little bit more comfortable with his performance after an nine-catch, 100-yard, one-touchdown outing against Baltimore last week.

But that wasn't the case.

White, who said leading into the Ravens game he felt like he was letting down his teammates, remains down on his overall play. Although he surpassed Terance Mathis for the most touchdowns in franchise history (57), White was more concerned about the couple balls he dropped against the Ravens. He now has at least five drops going into Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions in London.

"Mentally, I feel like I'm in the game plan. Mentally, I feel prepared for the games. It's just ... I don't know what is is," White said. "I'm not finishing plays. I'm not doing what I'm supposed to do."

White refused to use injuries as an excuse, although he's dealt with knee, ankle and hamstring issues over the last two seasons. He doesn't bring up the age factor, either, although he turns 33 on Nov. 2.

"It's frustrating me," White said. "It's getting to the point where I'm doing everything I've been doing for the last nine years of playing football, but it's not real good for me right now. I don't know what it is. I'm trying to find out. I'll figure it out, though. I will figure it out."

White has 28 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns through the first seven games. He missed one game due to a hamstring injury.

The Film Don't Lie: Falcons

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the Atlanta Falcons must fix:

As the Falcons prepare to face the league's top-ranked defense in the Detroit Lions Sunday in London, they know pressure will come at Matt Ryan from every direction.

Ryan was pressured on a season-high 32 percent of his dropbacks in this past Sunday's 29-7 loss to Baltimore, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It's no coincidence he was sacked a season-high five times. The pressure on his dropbacks has steadily climbed over the past five weeks (19 percent in Week 3, 23 percent in Week 4, 24 percent in Week 5, 29 percent in Week 6).

Surely the Lions picked up on the Falcons' inability to adjust to the variety of pressures the Ravens threw at them and how effective the Ravens were with stunts. The Lions ran some effective twists against Drew Brees and the Saints last week and also got after Brees with the blitz. And they got after Brees in the fourth quarter, putting him under duress on six of his 15 fourth-quarter dropbacks. Brees was 0-for-6 with an interception on those dropbacks.

Now against the Falcons, Ndamukong Suh and the Lions' front is sure to smell blood with a rookie set to start at center for the Falcons in James Stone. Suh and Nick Fairley will bring intense interior pressure, while team sack leader George Johnson and fast-rising Ezekiel Ansah -- the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week in Week 6 -- could give Falcons tackles Jake Matthews and Gabe Carimi fits on the edges.
A couple of games ago, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith talked about how winning the NFC South would be the "cleanest" way for his team to make the playoffs despite a slow start.

Well, now the Falcons sit at 2-5 and are in the midst of a four-game losing streak as they prepare for Sunday's matchup with the Detroit Lions (5-2) in London. Optimism has all but faded, at least in the eyes of irate fans. And the division race isn't something Smith really wants to discuss anymore.

"This division is going to be a competitive division every single time. ... I'm not concerned about the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Smith said after Sunday's 29-7 loss at Baltimore. "We've got to focus on the Atlanta Falcons. And together, we will pull out of this."

The Falcons were 2-5 to start the 2013 season, then lost their next four and imploded to a 4-12 finish. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only four teams that have started the season 2-5 have gone on to make the playoffs since the playoffs expanded in 1990: the 2011 Broncos (8-8), the 2002 Jets (9-7), the 1995 Lions (10-6), and the 1990 New Orleans Saints (8-8). That Broncos team was quarterbacked by Tim Tebow, so maybe the Falcons truly do have hope.

Not to mention the sad state of the NFC South, which also gives the Falcons an outside chance to win the division title. There is no team currently above .500 in the division, with the Panthers leading the way at 3-3-1.

The Falcons have the best record in NFC South play at 2-0 with wins against the Saints and Buccaneers, but both of those games were at home. They have three consecutive division road games upcoming -- at Tampa Bay (Nov. 9), at Carolina (Nov. 16) and at New Orleans (Dec. 21) -- and they are 0-4 on the road this season.

Just how bad has the NFC South been this season? The Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints are a combined 8-17-1, including 2-12-1 on the road. The last time a division posted a road record that bad through seven weeks was 2010, when the NFC West went 2-12, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Based on combined opponents' records, the Falcons have the toughest remaining schedule (31-26-1) while the Panthers have the easiest (22-35). Only one team left on Carolina's schedule currently sits above .500, and that's the Philadelphia Eagles (5-1).

Falcons receiver Julio Jones was bold enough to say his team is good enough to finish 11-5. That doesn't seem realistic at this point, but you wonder whether an 8-8 Falcons team might actually have a shot. Then anything could happen once you make the postseason.

But where will the Falcons find wins the rest of the way? They have four road games remaining outside of Sunday's trip to London. They face the NFC West leading Cardinals (5-1) at home. And the Falcons travel to Green Bay (5-2) on Dec. 8, the exact same date they got buried in the snow at Lambeau Field last season without Aaron Rodgers in the Packers' lineup.

Taking care of business at home against the Browns, Cardinals, Steelers and Panthers would give the Falcons four more wins, but 6-10 isn't going to get it done. They likely have to go at least 6-3 the rest of the way and beat Carolina at least once over the next nine to have a legitimate shot, all while watching to see how the rest of the division unfolds.

"It's no different when we've been successful, too," quarterback Matt Ryan said of keeping an eye on the division standings. "You always kind of know where things shake out and where things stand. It is what it is.

"We're in the position that we're in. We know where everybody else is at. But I think [Coach] Smitty is right: At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what everybody else does. Ultimately, we've got to worry about and we've got to concern ourselves with what we've got to do to get better."
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Roddy White didn't make any excuses. Instead, the veteran Atlanta Falcons wide receiver pointed the finger at himself.

White knows he hasn't been the same player so far this season. He hasn't gotten into a rhythm. He's had some uncharacteristic drops, including a key one in last Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears.

"I've gotten off to a really slow start," White said. "Not one of my favorable years that I'm having. But I've got to turn my game around for our team to start playing better. I'm a leader on this team, and I haven't been going out there and playing like Roddy White football. I've got to get back to just being myself -- go out there and just cut it loose -- and whatever happens, happens."

White enters Sunday's game against Baltimore with 19 catches in five games for an average of 3.8 receptions per game. Coming into the season, White had averaged 4.8 catches per game or better in every season since becoming a regular starter (2007), with his career low being that 4.8 average last season.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, White has three drops this season on 39 targets. Those three drops are tied for the fourth most in the league among wide receivers. And his 7.7 percent drop percentage is the 10th highest among 88 qualified wide receivers.

White did lead the league with 14 drops in 2011, but he also made the Pro Bowl that season while catching 100 passes.

Some might say his struggles are just a product of being an aging receiver, with White set to turn 33 next month. He has dealt with some injury issues, including having his left knee drained this offseason and not participating in minicamp. He also missed a Week 3 win over Tampa Bay due to a hamstring injury.

White, however, hasn't been on the injury report as of late, so he figured to get his timing back with quarterback Matt Ryan once he got back on a regular practice routine. That hasn't been the case.

"When you go out there and practice and execute plays and things come up that way in a game and you don't get it done, it's frustrating on your behalf because all my career I've made those plays," White said. "Right now, I'm just not making them. It's frustrating for me that I feel like I'm letting my team down in those circumstances. I've got to do a better job of just helping everybody else around the offense; just going out there and making the plays that they design for me to make."

White admitted he has been pressing and maybe looking too much for the big play.

"I've just been concentrating this week on just looking every ball in," White said. "That's been my primary focus, just going in there and just executing the plays that are called (and) don't worry about scoring touchdowns or trying to hit a home run or go out there and try to hit 80-yard plays. Just be who I am: go out there and catch balls and move the chains."

The Film Don't Lie: Falcons

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
A weekly look at what the Atlanta Falcons must fix:

As the Falcons prepare for Sunday's road matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, they have to fix their communication issues on defense.

Those issues were evident in a 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. On the two longest pass plays the Falcons surrendered -- a 74-yarder and a 47-yarder -- the defensive backs were spotted frantically trying to signal to each other before the snap. On the 74-yard connection between Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery, the obvious confusion led to Jeffery being wide-open behind the defense.

Falcons coach Mike Smith refused to blame it on youth, although three second-year players are starting in the secondary. The Falcons no doubt sorely miss injured strong safety William Moore (shoulder), who is capable of communicating well and getting everybody on the same page. The Falcons also don't have injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (Achilles), another excellent communicator and vocal leader.

Even without Moore or Weatherspoon, the Falcons have to resolve the issue fast or else they might get torched for a few more big plays come Sunday. Baltimore receiver Steve Smith, formerly a Falcons nemesis with Carolina, has three touchdowns of 50-plus yards this season. That's as many as the 35-year-old caught in his last five seasons with the Panthers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Teams are expected to have bumps and bruises six games into the season, and it's no different for the Atlanta Falcons.

Several players continue to gut through injuries in preparation for Sunday's game at Baltimore. The most notable are receiver Julio Jones and rookie left tackle Jake Matthews.

Jones was spotted slowly dragging his left foot as he exited the locker room on Monday afternoon. His left ankle has given him issues ever since the Minnesota game, and it is typically rather painful for him to deal with early in the week. Jones has shown up on the injury report as "limited" in practice the past few weeks due to his ankle, but is hasn't kept him out of any game action. In fact, he played 51 of 56 offensive snaps in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears. And Jones continues to display his speed and explosion despite the ankle.

Fortunately for Jones, it is not the same right foot he had surgically repaired twice. He simply continues to get treatment on the ankle. And he actually moved around better Monday night as he attended teammate Harry Douglas' charity bowling event for The Douglas Brothers Foundation.

As for Matthews, he suffered a left high ankle sprain in the season opener against New Orleans and missed just one game. Matthews said he tweaked the ankle again during a Week 5 loss to the New York Giants.

It obviously has affected his play. Matthews had a tough time against Jason Pierre-Paul in New York, then gave up two sacks against the Bears as the offensive line, as a whole, wore down and struggled to protect Matt Ryan.

"Jake has done a very good job of dealing with that ankle all through this season," coach Mike Smith said. "I'm not going to say that it's affecting his play. I think that he's toughing it out in practice and in the games."

Also, rookie linebacker Prince Shembo did not play any defensive snaps against Chicago due to a knee injury. Shembo did play 12 snaps on special teams, but it wasn't the same stress he would have put on the knee had he played defense.

"Prince Shembo was limited in practice early in the week," Smith said. "Did not practice very much. And we felt like [Joplo] Bartu had taken the majority of the reps. And the way that Shembo was moving around, we thought it was in our best interest for [Bartu] to play in the game."

The Falcons need to get their receivers fully healthy. Besides Jones, Douglas remains sidelined with a deep bruise in his left foot with no timetable given for his return. Drew Davis, who had preseason foot surgery, was back on the field catching passes last week and is eligible to return to practice this week off the physically unable to perform list. But Smith wouldn't reveal Davis' status just yet. And Devin Hester had been dealing with a hamstring issue, although he played 29 of 56 offensive snaps and 11 special teams snaps against the Bears.
ATLANTA -- For a team so reliant on offensive momentum, the last thing the Atlanta Falcons needed was a malfunction on that side of the ball -- something like a dropped pass or two.

Or five.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Falcons dropped five Matt Ryan passes Sunday during a 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears. Second-year tight end Levine Toilolo had three, and Roddy White and Julio Jones each had one.

Entering the game, the Falcons had four drops all season.

"It doesn't concern me that it's a veteran player or a young player; we've got to complete balls," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We've got to make the plays when the plays are presented to us. And we had some opportunities today, and we did not get that done."

We've seen what the Falcons are capable of when they have a good offensive rhythm. It was evident in the season opener, when they scored 37 points and racked up 568 total yards in a overtime win over New Orleans. It was obvious in a Week 3 win over Tampa Bay, when the Falcons scored 56 points and amassed 488 total yards.

But Sunday, against a Bears team knew they would have to outscore based on their untrustworthy defense, the Falcons stumbled from the outset and managed just 287 total yards. They converted just 4-of-13 on third down. They managed just 42 rushing yards on 13 carries. And Ryan was sacked a season-high four times.

The offense would have flowed a lot more smoothly had it not been for those drops.

"It's tough when those things happen multiple times in one game," said Ryan, who completed 19 of 37 passes for 271 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "I've made plenty of poor throws myself. You have got to shake those off and move past them. You have to go back out there and make the play next time it presents itself."

White's drop came in the second quarter with the Falcons trailing 10-3. Ryan found him deep down the field, but White dropped the ball before taking what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit from Bears safety Ryan Mundy. No penalty was called on Mundy, and the drive stalled.

White was not available to the media after the game. Neither was Jones.

Toilolo, however, took full responsibility for his blunders.

"Got to fix them in practice," Toilolo said. "All these plays, I've made before. When they come to me, I've got to make them. Sometimes, I'll trying to do a little too much. I'm turning my eyes down the field before I tuck the ball. Yeah, I think for, it's a mindset, confidence. All those catches are catches I've made a thousand times.

"I think a couple of those would have been first downs. On all the drives I had drops, we ended up punting or turning the ball over. That hurts our rhythm and our flow of the offense. That's something that we can't have."

Especially when the offense is expected to carry the team.
ATLANTA -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Atlanta Falcons' 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears:

Devin Hester didn't show much emotion as he addressed the media at his locker despite all the hype about him facing his old team Sunday. Hester did share a few moments with his ex-teammates prior to kickoff and after the game, specifically Tim Jennings, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte. "I just told them congrats on the win and keep it up," Hester said. "I just said good luck the rest of the season and stay healthy." Hester mentioned that Jay Cutler said "What's up, Dev?" during pregame warm-ups. Hester acknowledged Cutler back with a head nod.

Moving on: Outside linebacker/defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi, who had a sack in the game, made an interesting statement about the defense before exiting the building. "There ain't nothing wrong with us," he said. "Hey, give [the Bears] their due. They made plays tonight. We weren't able to overcome that. All we have to do is move forward and get ready for the Baltimore Ravens." Easier said than done.

No pain relief: Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff sought an Advil as he stood in one corner of the locker room after the game. It's easy to understand why he probably had a headache after watching his team drop three straight. And there doesn't seem to be much relief in sight, particularly with four straight games upcoming away from the Georgia Dome.