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With another road trip looming, Falcons hoping to fix problems away from home

POSTED: October 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.
By Rick Havner/The Associated Press

Carolina Panthers' Julius Peppers (90) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter of the Panthers' 24-9 win Sunday in Charlotte, N.C.

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FLOWERY BRANCH —

 Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan has no quick fix for Atlanta’s offensive struggles on the road.

Compared to a 24-9 loss by the same score at Tampa Bay two weeks ago, the Falcons fared no worse with Carolina, but they also showed no marginal improvement.

Atlanta, which has lost five straight and nine of its last 10 away from the Georgia Dome, is still seeking its first touchdown on the road this year.

"You obviously deal with some noise issues on the offensive side of the ball," Ryan said Monday. "But we just really need to execute better when we get on the road."

Michael Turner, the NFL’s leading rusher, averaged 3.1 yards on 18 carries. Of Ryan’s 21 completions, the offense advanced only 3.5 yards per pass.

Atlanta converted only two of 13 third-down chances, three of which came on dropped passes.

Coach Mike Smith was particularly bothered by a pair of penalties that contributed to the offense’s failure to score a road touchdown this year.

Trailing 7-0 when Atlanta began its second possession of the first quarter, Smith liked how Ryan kept the Panthers guessing with a no-huddle attack that helped the Falcons advance to the Carolina 13.

Unfortunately, on the 10th snap of the drive, a false start penalty on tight end Justin Peelle pushed Atlanta back to the 18. The next two plays advanced the ball just three yards, and the Falcons had to settle for Jason Elam’s 33-yard field goal.

On the last drive of the first half, right guard Harvey Dahl was penalized twice for holding. The second flag hurt worse, wiping out Jerious Norwood’s 10-yard run to the 11 and causing Atlanta to call in Elam for this third field goal to make it 14-9.

"After we reviewed the tape, like I said yesterday, we made way too many mistakes as a football team," Smith said. "I like the effort of our football team. I thought we continued to fight and the mistakes we made I thought they were all correctable and fixable."

The Falcons dropped to 0-for-5 this year in red-zone efficiency on the road, but Ryan believes using the no-huddle could offer some solutions this weekend when Atlanta (2-2) visits Green Bay (2-2).

"It’s a good change of pace when we get into it," Ryan said. "I thought we did a pretty good with it. We’ve got a defined number of things that we do in that situation. We come up and try to see what they’re going to do and try and get us in a play, whether it be run or pass, that’s the best situation for that down and distance."

Ryan likely can audible between 10-11 plays in a no-huddle, which can cause confusion for a defense that’s used to making personnel changes between snaps.

"There is certainly a lot of responsibility that falls on your shoulders in a no-huddle," Ryan said. "It’s nice because you get a chance to look at what the defense is doing and call the appropriate plays. For the most part we got into some good play calls in that situation."

Smith believes it’s still too soon to project if rookie left tackle Sam Baker, a starter, and second-year receiver Laurent Robinson, Atlanta’s No. 3 wideout, will be able to return to practice on Wednesday.

Baker missed parts of the last two games with a mild concussion and the flu. Robinson could dress at Carolina because of a knee injury.

Smith indicated that strong safety Lawyer Milloy, who returned against the Panthers after a rib injury, will likely be ready to play at Green Bay.



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