Atlanta Falcons: What’s next for Matt Ryan?

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Dec 6, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs with the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay defeated Atlanta 23-19. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2. Falcons must stay committed to the ground game

The Buccaneers defended the run well in Sunday’s loss, but the Falcons’ lack of commitment on the ground was disappointing. Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan spoke at length before the season about finding consistent balance on offense, but too often it hasn’t been the case.

The Falcons ran the ball 18 times on Sunday and threw the ball 45 times. Considering the struggles Matt Ryan has had this season and the success of Devonta Freeman, it seems a strange move. Yes, the Bucs were defending the run well, but they weren’t completely shutting it down. It felt like Shanahan grew impatient and turned away from it.

Ryan has been struggling, and while he didn’t turn it over until the final drive of the game when he had no choice but to force the issue, it was far from a fluent performance on his part. The coaches need to help him re-establish confidence, and you do that by taking the pressure off.

Throwing 45 times and running 18 times isn’t easing the pressure, and it also doesn’t result in the balanced offense Quinn echoed the importance of in the offseason. Sometimes the situation of the game demands you to throw more often, but this was not one of those games. Tampa Bay’s biggest lead was seven points, and they didn’t hold a lead greater than four points at any point from the middle of the second quarter onwards.

The Falcons have two talented runners in the backfield. To help Matt Ryan, these backs must get more work.

Next: A surprise playoff team?