Time for our weekly “Five Questions, Five Answers” previewing the upcoming opponent, which this week is Tony Gonzalez (above in an AP photo) and the Atlanta Falcons. Helping us out is D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Q1: Atlanta entered the season as a Super Bowl favorite and now is 2-6 and seemingly out of the playoff picture. What in a nutshell has gone wrong?
A: The obvious one is injuries (receiver Julio Jones is out for the year and Roddy White has been out of the lineup but could be back this week). But the main reason is that the offensive line hasn’t worked out as they had hoped. They changed three starters before the season and they just haven’t been able to protect quarterback Matt Ryan or block in the run game.
Q2: What have been the most significant of the injuries?
A: They’ve had 12 starters miss at least one game, the biggest being Julio Jones being placed on injured reserve after the sixth game. And (running back) Steven Jackson has played in only four games. He was their big off-season pickup, and Roddy White has been playing with a high ankle sprain — he played the first five games and missed the last three. There have been a slew on defense, too. White came back to practice last week and could have returned and that would be a big boost for them if they can get him back.
Q3: Ryan has thrown seven interceptions the last two games. What’s gone wrong?
A: If teams take away Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, then he starts to press a little bit and force some balls into tight spaces and that certainly was the case in Arizona where they got behind and he tried to rally them and he had the four. Same thing against Carolina where he started trying to force some balls – tired to force one to Tony and another one to Douglas with three people around him and it got tipped and went to one of the Carolina guys. But he’s still on pace to break the franchise records he set last year in attempts, yards and completions.
Q4: What is the mood of the team right now given the disappointing season?
A: They were talking a good game on Monday that the just need to get one and get rolling and that they won eight in a row last year and that’s what it would take again this year. They seemed to be pretty upbeat for a team that has taken it on the chin here, especially some of the younger guys like Desmond Trufant, and even Gonzalez was a little more upbeat than you might think for a 2-6 team. But it’s hard to see a comeback really happening. They haven’t run the ball, they are 32nd running in the NFL, and they have given up 100 yards or more rushing the last five games. So if you can’t run the ball or stop the run, you don’t really have a winning formula.
Q5: Trufant is well-known here due to his days at Washington and his brother, Marcus, playing for the Seahawks. What kind of season is he having after being taken in the first round in the 2013 Draft?
A: He’s a good year. We just talked to (defensive coordinator Dick) Nolan about and they are all singing his praises. His numbers don’t jump out at you but I think he has eight pass breakups and one interception and they left him in man coverage the last two weeks against Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith. So they are pretty confident in what he is doing and how he is playing for them.