FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- When you lose track of a guy who stands 6-foot-4 not once but twice, you must be doing something really wrong.
That's exactly what happened to the Atlanta Falcons' defense on Sunday in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks. Rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf was wide open on 4- and 2-yard touchdown receptions from quarterback Russell Wilson. Those two defensive breakdowns were symbolic of the implosion the Falcons have gone through during this 1-7 season, with a losing streaking reaching six in a row following Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Seahawks.
The Falcons needed to clean up their act on defense this week, particularly with quarterback Matt Ryan sidelined by a sprained right ankle -- though backup Matt Schaub passed for 460 yards. Instead, it was the ineptitude of the defense that contributed to yet another slow start for the Falcons, who were outscored 24-0 in the first half. The second-half improvement by the defense, including two sacks, couldn't overshadow the first-half woes.
Some will blame coach Dan Quinn, who took over as the defensive playcaller this season, although he's distributed some of those duties as of late. But the players are the ones who have been out there making mistake after mistake. There have been too many instances of players being wide open, either in the end zone or in space. And the confusion is evident with the way the defenders have reacted before, during, and after the plays.
Sure, Quinn's job is in jeopardy. But plays like the ones to Metcalf is the reason Julio Jones spoke up last week and said the players should shoulder some of the blame.
Troubling trend, Part 1: Kicker Matt Bryant missed a pair of 50-plus yard field goals and is now 9-of-14 on the season and missed the key extra point at Arizona. Quinn backed Bryant leading into the game. Remember, the Falcons cut ties with Bryant last season only to bring him back after Giorgio Tavecchio struggled in preseason.
Troubling trend, Part 1: The Falcons were shutout in the first half. For the season, they've been outscored
Buy/sell on a breakout performance: It would be nice to buy Schaub's performance, but this might be the only time he sees the field this season. He completed 39 of 52 passes for 460 yards, but had one crucial interception after completing nine of first 11 passes. Schaub ran the offense well. He was sacked twice. Schaub's career-high for passing yards, by the way, is 527 against Jacksonville in 2012 while with the Houston Texans.
Ryan could be back after the bye week when the Falcons face the rival New Orleans Saints (Nov. 10), which would send Schaub back to the bench.