Shanahan: Blame for Falcons' scoring woes 'starts with me'
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Falcons' first shutout loss in 11 years was only the latest example of a stunning offensive decline that has accompanied a six-game losing streak.
First-year offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's future in Atlanta may be on the line as the Falcons have gone eight straight games without scoring more than 21 points, including last week's ugly 38-0 loss at Carolina. Their only win in that span was a 10-7 decision at Tennessee on Oct. 25.
The Falcons had not been shut out since a 27-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Dec. 5, 2004.
Shanahan knows he'll be judged by the results, including Sunday's game at Jacksonville.
''We've got a lot of areas to improve on,'' Shanahan said Thursday. ''We understand we've been struggling. I understand that starts with me.''
Since averaging more than 32 points in their 5-0 start, the Falcons (6-7) have scored only 13.5 points per game.
The lack of offense is especially shocking for a unit that has an enviable trio of big-play leaders with quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman. Jones leads the NFL with 109 catches and 1,426 yards receiving. Jones and Freeman each rank among the league's top five in combined rushing and receiving yards.
Despite missing one game, Freeman is tied for the NFL lead with nine rushing touchdowns, but they all came in the first six games. Each of his four outings with more than 100 yards rushing came in the first seven games.
Jones said he remains confident in Shanahan.
''Kyle has been doing a great job for us, especially this week,'' he said.
Especially this week?
''No, I mean every week he's been good,'' Jones said. ''Don't get me wrong. Every week he's been good. It's just when we get to games, defenses, they're tricking us. They're doing a lot of tricky stuff. ... It's just game-planning and what not.''
Obviously, it's not good news for an offense - or a coordinator - to be stopped by defensive trickery. Coach Dan Quinn said the offense has been hurt by ''not capitalizing on some of those opportunities that are there for us.''
''We know we've got some unique guys and Devonta to me is at the front of that list in terms of him getting going in the run game and the pass game,'' Quinn said. ''He's a catalyst for us. He's a spark that gives everybody on our team that energy. He's going to be a factor in this game, for sure.''
Shanahan said it's too easy to point only to the running game as the key for an offensive turnaround.
''It would be easy if we could just say `Let's run the ball. It's the answer to winning,''' Shanahan said. ''But also the way you get the run game going is to get the pass game going, too. We've got to make defenses defend both.''
Asked how the Falcons can produce more big plays in the passing game, Jones said ''When you throw downfield, you get that stuff cranked up.''
Ryan has eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions in his last seven games. His 14 interceptions overall already match his 2014 total and are only three below his career high.
Ryan's struggles have led to speculation he has had difficulty adjusting to Shanahan's scheme. Ryan said it's unfair to place blame only on Shanahan.
''I think Kyle and I have a really good relationship and I think I've learned a lot of things from him,'' Ryan said Wednesday. ''Collectively we all haven't done a good enough job. We've had opportunities with play calls. I think he's put us in some pretty good spots. We haven't made plays.
''As a player I feel like you always have to look in the mirror and take responsibility for what we're doing and take ownership for it, and we haven't done a good enough job of that.''
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