Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Arizona Cardinals in the first half last Sunday in Phoenix. (Jennifer Stewart/USA Today Sports)
The Atlanta Falcons, once considered Super Bowl contenders, are now just trying to cobble together a victory.
After flipping over 36 percent of their roster, revamping their offensive line and suffering a rash of injuries, the Falcons find themselves with a 2-6 mark at the halfway point of the season.
They have dropped five of the past seven games and only have victories over St. Louis (3-6) and Tampa Bay (0-8). They are set to face a stout Seattle (8-1) team in a rematch of their NFC divisional round playoff victory at 1 p.m. today at the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons went on to the NFC championship game and came up 10 yards short of reaching the Super Bowl.
But now, the two teams appear headed in totally different directions.
As far as the playoffs, the Falcons, the defending NFC South champs, have a 1.1 percent chance of repeating and 3.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to the website MakeNFLPlayoffs.com.
“I think this team is very mature and is handling it very well,” center Peter Konz said. “I think we are excited because we have new life. We’re excited because we get to go out and play.”
The Falcons did open last season with an 8-0 winning streak. They’d have to match the mark over the second half of the season to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Falcons coach Mike Smith said that Konz and his offensive line mates had one of their better outings in the 34-10 loss to Carolina on Sunday.
“There were some positives you take from the game, the offensive line playing pass protection and we ran the ball more effectively,” Smith said. “Not as good as we’d like to, but I think we ran the ball more effectively.”
Left tackle Sam Baker returned to the starting lineup after missing the past three games. Lamar Holmes went back to right tackle for Jeremy Trueblood.
“We have to go back to details,” Baker said. “We have to go back to the little things.”
After rushing for 18 yards on 18 carries against Tampa Bay and for 27 yards on 14 carries against Arizona, the Falcons rushed for 78 yards on 20 carries for a respectable 3.9 yards per carry.
They’ll have to run the ball much better if they indeed do plan to turn their fortunes around.
Running back Steven Jackson broke free for a 13-yard run, his longest of the season outside of that 50-yarder against New Orleans. Since then, it’s been a struggle.
On Sunday, Jackson had what would have been his first rushing touchdown as a Falcon called back on a holding penalty. The penalty negated a 2-yard run in the second quarter that would have tied the game.
“Any time you have so many different new variables — from the offensive line getting their chemistry together as well as learning my running style, as well as (offensive coordinator) Dirk (Koetter) learning how to call plays with me in the game,” Jackson said. “It’s a lot of different variables that go into it. It looks a little easier than what it is, but I think we did make some steps in the right direction.”
SERIES HISTORY: 14th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series 8-5. The Falcons have won the past three regular season meetings. The Falcons also beat the Seahawks 30-28 in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs last season when Matt Bryant kicked a field goal with 8 seconds to play.