Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Where: 1 p.m.
When: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay
Matt Ryan has not lost faith in his ability to win games for the Atlanta Falcons.
Amid the worst stretch of his eight-year career, Ryan said Wednesday that the last seven games are an aberration.
He acknowledges his mistakes — 10 interceptions and seven fumbles (three lost) in the last seven games — but Ryan believes he’s a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback for a reason.
Ryan has a respectable career record of 72-49, but he’s won just 16 of his last 43 starts and the Falcons are in danger of missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
“For me personally, there’s a lot of production through the years that you can fall back on,” Ryan said. “And there’s a lot of guys in our building that have made plays for a long time.”
Atlanta (6-5) has dropped four straight as it prepares for this week’s visit to Tampa Bay (5-6).
If they lose Sunday, the Falcons will fall into third place in the NFC South and to 0-3 in the division. An overtime loss to the Buccaneers last month started the skid.
Perhaps the team will benefit from a players-only meeting that Ryan and other team leaders called Monday to improve accountability and support.
Ryan, the team’s highest-paid player and franchise cornerstone, called himself out for causing turnovers, but tried to keep the focus on moving forward and beating Tampa Bay.
“We’ve made mistakes,” Ryan said. “There’s no doubt about it. I’ve made a number of mistakes this year. There’s no doubt about that, but I feel comfortable in what we’re doing and very good about where we’re at. I need to clean up one or two things a game and eliminate them. If we can do that, I think we’ll play at a very high clip.”
Ryan dismisses any notion that he’s struggling to adapt to the zone-blocking scheme offense installed by first-year coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
The numbers have been impressive. Ryan is the NFL’s fourth-leading passer, Julio Jones its leading receiver and Devonta Freeman its eighth-leading rusher.
But the Falcons have dropped to 14th in scoring while Ryan’s turnover total has risen.
“We have to find a way to get the ball into the end zone and when it’s not there, we’ve got to make good decisions and take the three points,” he said.
First-year coach Dan Quinn says the staff remains confident in Ryan’s ability to produce touchdowns and limit mistakes.
“We’ve got a guy that can sling it and get into tight spots,” Quinn said. “But we’ve got to know when it’s our shot to do it and when it’s not.”
Notes: Freeman (concussion) and receiver-return specialist Devin Hester (toe) were limited in practice Wednesday. Freeman has missed one game. Hester has been out all season. Before this year, Hester had missed just five games in his nine-year career. “It’s a tough process when you’re feeling healthy and you can’t return because of being on injured reserve,” Hester said. “Hopefully I can make a little splash in the offense and on special teams.”… K Matt Bryant (quadriceps), G Chris Chester (shoulder) and WR Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. Bryant hopes to return to full strength by Friday. … LB Justin Durant (ankle), LB Brooks Reid (knee) and NT Paul Soliai (calf) were limited.