Atlanta's Roddy White not smiling much these days
The last year has been tough on White, a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the career-leading receiver in team history.
He lost his 21-year-old brother, Tyrone Moore Jr., in a fatal shooting outside a South Carolina nightclub in May.
And the turnaround White was hoping for on the field hasn't occurred.
The Falcons (2-6) have lost five straight entering Sunday's game at Tampa Bay (1-7). Atlanta has dropped 12 of 18 since White and quarterback Matt Ryan misconnected on a last-second pass that would've put their team in the Super Bowl.
''Last year was bad, but this year has been just a little bit different,'' White said. ''From the time we played in the NFC championship game, which was almost two years ago, our team has totally changed.''
Difficulties on and off the field have affected White, who seemed to wear a constant smile from the time Atlanta drafted him in the first round of 2005 through the Falcons' 13-3 season of 2012.
There hasn't been much to grin about lately.
Atlanta was counting on improved production from its offense this year, but White and Julio Jones - once considered one of the NFL's top receiving tandems - have contributed to the problems by dropping passes.
White still believes the Falcons can turn their season around if the offense stops putting itself in third-and-long situations and makes basic plays when they're presented.
The dropped balls have hurt badly. White had two in a home loss to Chicago three weeks ago. Jones added two against the Bears before mishandling a critical third-down screen pass late in the fourth quarter of a loss to Detroit two weeks ago in London.
Jones, a Pro Bowl receiver two years ago, insists that his confidence is still high.
''The player that I am, if I drop a ball, keep throwing it to me,'' Jones said. ''I promise that I'm going to make more plays than I drop or make mistakes.''
Atlanta receivers have 20 dropped passes this year, tying them with three other teams for third-most in the league.
White has had similar problems before. He led the NFL with 14 drops in 2011, but balanced out those mistakes by ending the season with 100 catches.
''We've got to hold onto balls out there and do what we're supposed to do as an offense,'' White said. ''We know what we've got to do. We'll get it done.''
It might still take some time. The Falcons still lack a steady ground attack and suffer from inconsistent production on third downs, which hurts their ability to control time of possession.
White still believes the playoffs are within reach, adding that this season is nothing like the debacle of 2007, when Bobby Petrino quit after coaching just 13 games and quarterback Michael Vick was in jail.
White likes Atlanta's chances better now, mostly because Matt Ryan is in his seventh season.
Seven years ago, Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich and Chris Redman combined to go 4-12, but White considers Ryan as an elite as his position.
''Our quarterback is a really good quarterback,'' White said. ''We've got a chance to win about every game.''
That's hardly been the case recently, but White still has confidence in himself and his team.
''We've had a whole lot of third-and-10s or longer than we've had the last three or four years,'' he said. ''We've got to fix that problem and get ourselves opportunities to be successful.''
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