Falcons wide receiver Roddy White still believes Atlanta can turn its season around despite a disappointing 1-3 start. (Reuters)
FLOWERY BRANCH — To get the pulse of the Falcons, wide receiver Roddy White normally has all the answers.
White and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who were both drafted in 2005, have the longest tenure with the franchise. But the normally jovial White was somber this week in his assessment of the team’s 1-3 start.
“You just don’t panic,” said White, who claimed last spring this was a Super Bowl-or-bust season. “We got through the first quarter and we’re 1-3. You are what you earn in this league, so we are 1-3.
“You just don’t hit the panic (button). You go out there and try to correct the problems that you have and get ready for the next game.”
The Falcons were a fashionable pick to reach the Super Bowl after going 13-3 and reaching the NFC championship game last season.
But the team has dropped three games by one score to New Orleans (23-17), Miami (27-23) and New England on Sunday (30-23). The Falcons lone victory — also by one score — came against St. Louis (31-24), which is also 1-3.
White, who’s been playing through a high right ankle sprain sustained in the preseason, believes the Falcons could easily be 4-0.
“Yeah, we have a lot of talent on our team,” White said. “We feel like we should be 4-0, but that’s not the case. We’re 1-3 and we have to just keep battling.”
The Falcons are lamenting their missed opportunities.
They had a chance to win in New Orleans, but running back Steven Jackson dropped a late would-be touchdown in the end zone.
A fumbled punt by Harry Douglas fueled a Miami rally and the defense couldn’t stop a second-year quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, on a 13-play, 75-yard game-winning drive.
Against New England, the Falcons couldn’t complete a furious rally after falling behind by 17 points. Sketchy defense on third downs and the offense’s inability to convert in the red zone (1-of-6) led to the defeat.
“Like coach (Mike Smith) says, one or two plays in the game make the difference,” White said. “On those one or two plays in three games, we haven’t won. That’s why we are in the situation that we’re in right now.”
The Falcons will attempt to rebound Monday night against the New York Jets (2-2) at the Georgia Dome.
“We know that we can’t get back to .500 after one game,” White said. “We have to take these things one game at a time and battle. We have to go out there and try to beat the Jets.”
White saw his most extensive action of the season against the Patriots. He played on 97 percent of the 76 offensive snaps.
But the team’s all-time leading receiver has not been a factor thus far. He was targeted nine times against the Patriots and caught three passes for 28 yards.
After posting six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, White has 10 catches for 84 yards and no touchdowns this year.
“I’m feeling great as far as my health,” said White, who has started 132 straight games. “If I’m out there, then I expect to play at a high level. If I’m going to put myself out there, I expect to play.”
In retrospect, the Falcons have to be wondering if letting White play through the injury was a wise decision.
“The doctors have the final say on that and he’s been cleared to play,” Smith said. “Is he 100 percent? No, he’s not.
“Roddy is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around. A lot of guys probably would not even consider stepping out on the field. Roddy’s a competitor and obviously, if he’s the best option for us, he’s going to be out there on the field.”
The final pass in the Falcons comeback bid against the Patriots was to White in the back of the end zone with 36 seconds to play. The ball was batted down by New England’s Aqib Talib.
Nevertheless, the Falcons believe they have the formula to start winning more of their one-score games.
“We are just concerned more about the red zone and capitalizing on our opportunities when we are down there and not kicking field goals,” White said. “We know that we can correct that problem and the games will get much easier. That’s going to be our focus this week leading up to the Jets game.”