Blame game won’t fix Falcons as season slips away The Atlanta Falcons have fallen to 1-4. As Falcons Twitter maven Evan Birchfield noted [url=http://www.falconsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-terrell-mcclain-jersey]Authentic Terrell McClain Jersey[/url] , no team has ever made it to the Super Bowl after a 1-4 start. Unfortunately, 2018 might well be over. The reason for the slip? There are many, but Steve in Brooklyn put it well on Twitter himself recently. Blame dirty, rotten luck.Injury City Go back to the second Keanu Neal went down, and then Deion Jones went down, and Devonta Freeman went down, and then Ricardo Allen went down, and then Takk McKinley missed a game, and then Desmond Trufant got hurt on a drive that let up a touchdown, and Justin Bethel went down, and Andy Levitre went down, and Derrick Shelby went down, and Grady Jarrett went down...you get where this is going. Sign up for FanPulse, our weekly Falcons survey.The Falcons came into 2018 with everything they needed to compete. Sure, you could say the defensive line didn’t have enough firepower, but you could survive that if the linebacking corps and secondary did what we all thought it was capable of. That offense? Well, it secretly was actually really good without any of us knowing it, though we didn’t see much of that Sunday. If this team had not gotten smitten (smited? smitered?) by the bug of injury, they might be undefeated right now. They might not, given the state of the defensive line, but the You know, you can’t regulate luck. You either have it, or you don’t. Right now, the Falcons are running on empty in a car with two flat tires careening towards a flaming lake. And it’s really not the team’s fault that they’re here. Blame, Shame and Game It’s fair to question if the team did everything it could’ve to make this not as bad as it could’ve been. When Neal went down, one wonders what would’ve happened if they’d just signed Eric Reid and let him get acclimated to the system. But then again, they also lost Debo and Devonta in that game. It was never just as simple as replacing one person, even if that would have staved off some o the criticism. There’s no denying this defense is a problem. It’s an abysmal, injury-riddled shell of its former self. But do any of you think the Falcons could’ve just snapped their fingers to replace the heart, soul, brain and physical punishing force that Neal brought? We can be critical that a good safety like Reid was out there for the taking, but he was really it. There was no easy cure for losing Debo, and should we really be all that critical of Dan Quinn wanting to see what he had in-house? Particularly when he knew what his offense was capable of? It’s fair to wonder if they waited too long to settle all of this once it was clear the in-house options weren’t working, but it was always just Reid. I’m still peeved they didn’t make that move, but would it have really made that much of a difference? The offense has struggled on the road against outdoor teams with ferocious pass rushes. But they always used to do that. These are the types of games where defense is supposed to take over and make life easier on the offense. When the defense is virtually nonexistent, the good, even the best, offenses take a step back. It’s fair to want more from what the Falcons have right now [url=http://www.falconsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-takkarist-mckinley-jersey]Youth Takkarist McKinley Jersey[/url] , but it’s not fair to want what was promised. That has been ripped away by the cruel specter of chance, and it won’t return until guys heal up and replacement guys can get comfortable in their new roles, and that may not come soon enough. The missed tackles and busted coverages hurt, but a lot of that comes down to a lack of communication. Having your quarterback sacked six times stinks to high heaven, but that happens on the road sometimes against a pass rush willing to pin their ears back, even if it doesn’t say anything great about the line. We can coach from the sidelines as to who should play when, and why this guy is in or this guy is out, but there is method to the madness as to why they’ve done what they’ve done. It might not have gone as well as hoped, but there wasn’t a lot they could do. Aim for the Right TargetNo, the Falcons cannot compete against good teams like we planned on them doing right now. They’ve not navigated this period of malcontent with perfection, but they’re doing the best they can. They tried to lean on what they had, but it wasn’t good enough. Perhaps this team knows deep down what its limitations were without its favored sons. Perhaps we all expected too much when the foundation fell out on the house, including the team. Perhaps the season really was lost when the rain started to fall on that slippery Philadelphia field, and none of us knew it. So stop blaming Dan Quinn. He technically made the moves in the 2018 offseason to fix the offense and fielded what looked like for about a quarter-and-a-half against the Eagles to be a nasty defense (before it would become, well, a nasty defense). Stop blaming Matt Ryan, who looked like an MVP for most of September after that first dud before struggling on the road to win games by himself. Stop blaming Steve Sarkisian, who has wrung real improvement out of the offense after a rigid 2017 and who can’t do a ton when his offensive line can’t block. Stop blaming the defense as it is, a ragtag assembly of guys out of position and out of their comfort zones, without the leadership, skill matching and communication necessary to really succeed. Stop blaming some imaginary Atlanta curse that supposedly looms over the city’s sports teams, even if it seems like that sometimes. Blame the bad draw. Blame the frustrating inevitability of what happens when the injuries begin to pile up. 2019 might actually be a huge change of fortune if the Falcons can actually field the team they planned on fielding, which will depend on better injury luck and some cap magic. Yes, 2018 might be good and dead by now, but that’s not wholly on the Atlanta Falcons. It was poor luck, more than anything, that got this team to where they are today.Falcons vs. Steelers: Arrow up, arrow down for several Falcons heading into Week 5 Each week, we’ll take a look at who is trending up and trending downward as we head into the next game. This week, the names won’t surprise you. Arrow UpQB Matt Ryan Ryan couldn’t be much hotter right now. While offenses across the NFL look better in 2018 than they ever have before (literally, given points and yardage pacing), Ryan’s still standing out from the pack. He’s hitting deep throws, intermediate throws, spreading the ball around, and moving in the pocket well behind an offensive line that has been up-and-down in pass protection. He’s led the offense to 104 points over the last three weeks, and with two lousy defenses on the docket, he could be most of the way to his 2017 touchdown pass total (20) in just six weeks. The arrow just keeps pointing up. The road trip is a bit of a concern, and Ryan can’t feast on lousy defenses all year [url=http://www.falconsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-brandon-fusco-jersey]http://www.falconsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-brandon-fusco-jersey[/url] , but he’s looked great and comfortable in this offense, and that should continue.WRs Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, and Julio Jones The dynamic trio lit up the Bengals in Week 4, with Julio and Sanu going for over 100 yards and Ridley dominating in the red zone. Sanu had been quiet leading up to last week, but we all know he’s a talented possession option, and this looks like the best wide receiving trio in football outside of the Rams and maybe Steelers. All three are going to be asked to dominate against putrid pass defenses the next two weeks, so I expect very little fall-off, though their target counts and productivity will vary from week-to-week.DE Takkarist McKinleyTakk is every bit as good as he was advertised to be. We saw how much the defense missed him last week, when he lined up at defensive end and defensive tackle and managed three sacks. He’s a powerful defender and solid against the run, but he’s also one of the league’s most productive pass rushers already.The Steelers have a solid enough offensive line and the Buccaneers should, but Takk doesn’t concern himself with that sort of thing. Even if he’s not putting up multiple sacks per week, I like his chances of putting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and Jameis Winston, and his arrow is definitely pointing up.LB Duke Riley For the second straight week, we saw Riley turn in a solid performance despite the large-scale crumbling going on around him. I’d like to see him make some impact plays—I have lofty goals—but a version of Riley that tackles well, keeps the play in front of him and doesn’t embarrass himself in coverage is welcome.For Riley to look better than he has, he probably needs the defense around him to improve. But the arrow’s still pointing up for him, as he’s gone from unplayable to solid enough in short order. KR Marvin HallHall is where he should be: Returning the football. I like Justin Hardy but was a little surprised he won the job coming out of preseason, and the Falcons had to have seen enough after a handful of tepid returns and interesting decisions that were reminiscent of the worst of the 2016 and 2017 return games. Hall offers a lot more speed, and he showed that in the Bengals game, particularly on the first return of the game. If he can break a couple and make good decisions with the football, Hall should have the job for the rest of the year.Arrow Down RBs Tevin Coleman & Ito SmithBoth players have been solid at worst and downright terrific during their best moments, but they’re coming off two straight weeks of the Falcons not exactly tearing it up on the ground. If Devonta Freeman is back in action, as I’m hopeful he will be, both will see hits to their carry counts and target shares, and Smith in particular seems likely to see his snaps dialed back. TE Austin HooperWith Calvin Ridley emerging, Hooper is sort of an after-thought in this passing game. Matt Ryan has simply missed him on a pair of red zone targets this year, but Hooper’s at just 12 receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown, or 3 grabs and 30ish yards per game. That doesn’t seem likely to change with the receiving trio doing well, other receiving options to mix in and Freeman/Coleman/Smith on the field, leaving Hooper as a useful blocker and part-time receiver. That’s useful, but it’s yet another data point that suggests that Hooper is rarely going to be prominent part of this passing game. CBs Desmond Trufant & Robert AlfordTrufant and Alford are very good cornerbacks who tend to have at least one or two rough outings per year. Unfortunately for the Falcons and all of us, they had one of those games at the same time against the Bengals.Two things can simultaneously be true: Alford and Trufant are generally very good, and they were downright bad against Cincinnati. Given that Cincy doesn’t even have the most initimidating receiving options the Falcons have faced and are going to face over the first six weeks of the season, that arrow’s pointing down until they rebound.