Falcons may face tough decisions following 5 straight losses
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By CHARLES ODUM
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) For the second straight year, a five-game losing streak has devastated the Atlanta Falcons' playoff hopes.
This time, the Falcons can't blame injuries. Instead, with the Oct. 29 trade deadline approaching, management could be facing some difficult decisions.
Defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. is believed to be available for a trade. It may be time for general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn to make more veterans available for trades.
Only a dramatic turnaround could save the Falcons (1-6) from a second straight losing season. The poor start threatens Quinn's job security.
Quinn said Monday that he and Dimitroff are not viewing this trade deadline in a different light because of the poor record. "We really think about the team a lot, not just now or this week or in this moment," he said.
The Falcons have not shown many signs they could stage a turnaround soon. The team has numerous flaws and now could be without quarterback Matt Ryan, who limped off the field with a sprained right ankle in Sunday's 37-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams .
The Rams sacked Ryan five times, matching the total by Atlanta's woeful defense through seven games.
Quinn said Monday that Ryan won't practice Wednesday but has not been ruled out for this week's game against Seattle.
Ryan was leading the NFL with 15 touchdown passes entering Sunday's games, but his excellent start was wasted by poor play on both lines.
Ryan's string of six straight 300-yard games was snapped; he threw for 159 yards before the injury. Julio Jones played well in his high-profile matchup with cornerback Jalen Ramsey, catching six passes for 93 yards. Tight end Austin Hooper continued his impressive season with four catches, including a 10-yarder for a touchdown.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Ryan's status is uncertain because the offensive line provided such poor protection. It was the second time this season the unit allowed five sacks. Wes Schweitzer, playing in a backup role because left guard James Carpenter's playing time was limited by nagging injuries, was beaten by Aaron Donald on the sack that ended with Ryan's injury.
Rookie first-round pick Chris Lindstrom (foot) could help at guard if he comes off injured reserve, but he was still in a walking boot on Monday and won't return to practice this week. Another rookie, Kaleb McGary, is starting at right tackle. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter says McGary has improved during the season but struggled against the Rams' edge rushers.
The offensive line was the focus of the offseason, with investments in the draft and free agency, and yet it remains one of the most glaring weaknesses of the team.
Matt Schaub, 38, would make his first start since 2015 with Baltimore if Ryan doesn't return this week. Schaub has 92 career starts, but he had only a combined 10 pass attempts as Ryan's backup from 2016 through 2018. He completed 6 of 6 passes and led the Falcons to a touchdown drive after Ryan's injury.
Devonta Freeman was limited to 19 yards on seven carries before being ejected in the third quarter for fighting with Donald. He had a 9-yard run, leaving him the 10 yards on his other six carries. The poor game wiped out any momentum he appeared to gain by rushing for 83 yards against Arizona on Oct. 13.
He was remorseful on Monday for throwing a punch at Donald.
"I shouldn't have been in that position first and foremost because my brothers are out there competing," he said. "I need to be out there at all times. ... It just happened. It can't happen no more."
Running back Ito Smith is in the concussion protocol and won't play this week. He left the game with head and neck injuries after Freeman was ejected. Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison could have bigger roles this week behind Freeman.
19-5 - The Falcons have given up 19 sacks in seven games while the defense ranks last in the NFL with only five sacks, including none in the last four games.
The Falcons play the Seahawks at home on Sunday before their bye week. Seattle leads the series 10-8.
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Updated October 21, 2019