Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By JOHN MANASSO  |  Last updated 10/27/13
It's been a while since the NFC playoffs looked so far out of reach, so early in the season for the Atlanta Falcons. Try their disastrous 2007 campaign. It's a first for the trio leading the Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Since they arrived in 2008, the year after then-head coach Bobby Petrino quit with three games left and former quarterback Michael Vick went off to jail. Not even at the season's midpoint, the Falcons will likely require a miracle to earn a playoff berth, as they slipped three games under .500 (again) with a 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game wasn't as close as the score might indicate. The 2009 Falcons the only team from the Ryan-Smith-Dimitroff era to miss the playoffs started off 4-1 before injuries led to a 9-7 finish. And the 2012 club, that was famously poised 10 yards from a trip to the Super Bowl, could not seem farther away at this point. NFC South rival New Orleans sits atop the conference with a 6-1 mark, putting Atlanta four games behind with nine games to play a virtually insurmountable lead. Even the New York Giants, one loss worse than the Falcons at 2-6, have won two straight and look to be in better shape. In the wild-card race, Atlanta trails Detroit (5-3), currently owner of the second wild card spot, by 2 12 games. The Falcons also sit behind division rival Carolina (4-3) by two games. Incidentally, the Falcons visit the Panthers next Sunday. But the two are teams going in two different directions. It's possible Atlanta could win and narrow that gap, but the Falcons have so many teams to climb past, in addition to the Lions and Panthers, with Chicago (4-3) representing another. Flaws that have become apparent with the Falcons all season flaws that Smith and his staff have sought to fix during the bye week appear fatal in terms of the team's postseason hopes. The problems are basic: the offensive line and the defense. At times, Ryan is able to mask the O-line's flaws, entering Sunday with the NFL's No. 3 quarterback rating. But against a top defense, like the Cardinals, those flaws were exposed. Not only was Ryan pressured but the Falcons, as has often been the case this season, demonstrated an abysmal running game even with the return of running back Steven Jackson, after a six-week injury absence. The fact that the Falcons, who entered the week ranked 30th in rushing offense, cannot run the ball with either Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers or Jason Snelling indicates it's a not problem of the backs. It begins with O-line deficiencies. On Sunday, with left tackle Sam Baker (knee) missing his fourth game of the seaosn, the Falcons again went with Lamar Holmes in that spot ... and Holmes was whistled for a couple penalties. But it's not all the fault of Holmes, a favorite scapegoat. It's a group effort, and the group is not getting the job done. Last week, the Falcons ran the ball for 30 net yards, before three victory-formation kneel-downs resulted in minus-2 yards. This week, the Falcons ran 14 times for 27 yards and that included a late 13-yard scamper by Ryan to convert a fourth down. Jackson rushed 11 times for six yards. When it came to the pass, Ryan took a beating against the Cardinals. He was sacked four times and officially hit 11 times four times alone by Marcus Benard tossing a career-high 61 passes. The byproduct was that Ryan threw a season-high four interceptions. The Cardinals are the same defense that forced Ryan into five interceptions last year. The Falcons won that game, in large part, because Arizona's own quarterbacking play was improbably worse. The Falcons also had wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones in last year's game. White missed his second straight outing on Sunday with a hamstring issue, and Jones is out for the season, as injuries continue to take their toll on the 2013 club. Red-zone issues, which have continually dogged the Falcons, arose again. Atlanta settled for short field goals on its first two possessions unable to cash in an Asante Samuel interception and trailed early on, 7-6. And then there's the defense, which entered the game ranked 20th in the NFL. The Falcons allowed the Cardinals to rush for 201 yards, 80 coming on Andre Ellington's long burst in the first half. Atlanta defenders either got beat on their blocks or took poor angles, allowing the former Clemson back an unimpeded path to the end zone. The Falcons also had breakdowns against the pass. Teddy Williams' 51-yard reception led to Arizona's first touchdown and came when Samuel seemingly thought he had safety help deep, in the form of William Moore. He did not. Fellow safety Thomas DeCoud got beat by Michael Floyd on a 15-yard touchdown reception that put Arizona up 21-6 at halftime. In short, the issues with this team seem too numerous and too recurring to fix in the final nine games. If Smith can do it, it would be a coaching performance for the ages. Alas, the players might not be up to the task.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
The first time John Randle talked trash in the NFL
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Madden 17's live commentary tackles Kaepernick controversy

Nationals' Stephen Strasburg expected to return next week

WATCH: Footage surfaces from Tim Tebow’s baseball workout

Teddy Bridgewater suffers serious knee injury at practice?

EON Sports strikes VR partnerships with Miami, PSU

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Mike Tyson accused of stealing ice cream treat at U.S. Open

Calvin Johnson to join DWTS, sister says he ‘can’t dance’

Eagles rookie nixes anthem protest after talking to agent

Report: Romo has no ligament damage, to resume training soon

Michael Phelps to be honored with unique Wheaties box

Woman suing Brewers after being struck by foul ball

WATCH: Lorenzo Neal on the one move that caused the demise of the Chargers

Teddy Bridgewater injury puts Vikings' plans up in the air

The hottest MLB pitchers headed into September sprint

Kanye West, Saint Pablo Tour and the anti-celebrity

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

Vontaze Burfict on Steelers: ‘I don’t give no f—s about them’

Alistair Overeem: Brock Lesnar will never return to UFC

Top five Heisman Trophy candidates for 2016

Five young NFL players set to explode in 2016

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Lorenzo Neal on the one move that caused the demise of the Chargers

The hottest MLB pitchers headed into September sprint

West-ern Literature: How Kanye's fans find meaning in between the lines

Madden 17's live commentary tackles Kaepernick controversy

Kanye West, Saint Pablo Tour and the anti-celebrity

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker