Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant sprinted around the field. Tight end Tony Gonzalez cried. And quarterback Matt Ryan had his first playoff win.
That was the scene the last time the Seahawks visited the Georgia Dome. Atlanta barely held off Seattle’s fourth-quarter comeback to win last season’s divisional playoff game, 30-28.
The Falcons lost the NFC championship game to the San Francisco 49ers the following week, but beating the Seahawks was seen as a significant step for the combination of Ryan and coach Mike Smith.
Gonzalez, who considered retiring last year, was overwhelmed with emotion after Bryant’s field goal with eight seconds remaining put Atlanta back in front. It was the future Hall of Famer’s first playoff win in his now-17-year career.
Nine months later, the Falcons are a mess.
Atlanta is 2-6, is last in the league in rushing, and has been outscored 61-23 its past two games.
Things are so bad, the team mascot, Freddie Falcon, had to apologize Monday for an insensitive tweet after participating in a suicide prevention walk.
“Right now, we’re not executing at a high level,” Smith said. “We have many different problems.
Sometimes it’s the offense. Sometimes it’s the defense. Sometimes it’s special teams. Sometimes it’s coaching. When you are 2-6, you’re obviously not doing (anything) very consistently (or) effectively.”
Ryan threw three interceptions Sunday in a 34-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Midway through the season, he’s four short of his career high for picks (14).
Part of the reason is the Falcons have been wiped out by injuries. Starting wide receiver Roddy White was inactive for the third consecutive game Sunday because of hamstring and ankle problems.
Atlanta lost star receiver Julio Jones for the year in Week 5 because of a broken bone in his foot that required surgery.
Running back Steven Jackson was signed in the offseason as an anticipated boost to the offense. He was hurt in the second game of the season, has played in just four and has 38 carries on the league’s worst rushing offense.
Jackson had a season-high 13 carries last week.
The Falcons had 18 rushing yards on 18 carries against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – the same defense the Seahawks ran for 198 yards against.
Losing such big playmakers has left Atlanta with little to turn to on offense.
“I do believe we have not been on the same page consistently and that has led to a number of offensive breakdowns,” Smith said.
Which leaves Atlanta a long way from the playoff euphoria of last January.
SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT
Atlanta Falcons (2-6)
10 a.m. Sunday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Against the Seahawks: This is the 14th regular-season meeting between the teams. The Seahawks leads the series 8-5. The last time the teams met in the regular season, the Seahawks lost, 30-28, on Oct. 2, 2011 in Seattle.
Stats and stuff: Former University of Washington star and Tacoma native Desmond Trufant was the Falcons’ first pick in the 2013 draft – 22nd overall. … Trufant is fifth on the Falcons in tackles and leads them with eight passes defended. He also has an interception and forced fumble. … Veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez told the team he did not want to be traded despite the rough start to what is expected to be his final season. Gonzalez has 44 catches and is on pace for his eighth 80-plus catch season. … Julio Jones still leads the Falcons in receiving yards even though he hasn’t played in three weeks after breaking a bone in his foot, which ended his season. … Unlike the Seahawks, the Falcons spend most of the second half on the road. Atlanta plays four of its final seven away from the Georgia Dome.
Quotable: “This is a production-oriented business, and we didn’t get it done.” – Falcons coach Mike Smith on his team’s 34-10 loss to the Panthers on Sunday.
Sept. 8at New OrleansL, 23-17
Sept. 15St. LouisW, 31-24
Sept. 22at MiamiL, 27-23
Sept. 29New EnglandL, 30-23
Oct. 7New York JetsL, 30-28
Oct. 20Tampa BayW, 31-23
Oct. 27at ArizonaL, 27-13
Nov. 3at CarolinaL, 34-10
Nov. 17at Tampa Bay
Dec. 1at Buffalo
Dec. 8at Green Bay
Dec. 23at San Francisco
Dec. 29Carolinatodd.firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @Todd_Dybas email@example.com