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Ryan struggles as Falcons crumble around him

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) reacts in pain after being sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the second half at the Georgia Dome. (USA TODAY Sports: Dale Zanine)

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) reacts in pain after being sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the second half at the Georgia Dome. (USA TODAY Sports: Dale Zanine)

Pass protection has been poor, there is almost no running game to speak of and age and injuries have decimated the receiving corps. It all continues to add up to a very difficult season for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan following Thursday night’s home loss to the New Orleans Saints that dropped the Falcons to 2-9.

Ryan passed for 292 yards against the Saints, but did not have a touchdown pass for the first time in 18 games, including the playoffs. The last time he didn’t have at least one touchdown pass was in a 17-13 victory over Arizona on Nov. 18, 2011. He threw a career-high five interceptions in that game.

The offense scored just one touchdown in a game for the fourth time this season. Much to the dismay of several fans, with the Falcons trailing 14-10 late in the second quarter, Ryan elected to slide on a third-and-10 instead of trying to barge into the end zone for a touchdown.

Ryan did a nifty job of eluding pressure and got down at the 6-yard line. He appeared to have enough room to make it to the 3, where he would have had to fly over or power through a couple of defenders.

“It was early in the game,” Ryan said. “You’ve got to take the points. You’ve got to make the right play. I felt like that was the right play and you’ve got to take those three points.”

It was the last points for the game for the Falcons in the 17-13 loss.

“We have to trust that we’re going to continue to get down there and continue to score touchdowns,” Ryan said. “In that situation I felt like that was the right play.”

The Falcons got the ball back with 7:53 to play on their 9-yard line. Over the past five season, that has usually been Ryan throws on his “Matty Ice” cape and drives the team down to victory. He got the Falcons on the move, but the pass blocking broke down and the drive stalled at the 34.

“We were backed up,” Ryan said. “I thought we did a nice job, after the first play was a sack, of getting ourselves back into it. We got a couple of yards on the second down situation and then came up with a big third down conversion with Roddy (White).

“I thought he did a good job. We kind of broke off our route and just played ball on that third down conversion. That kind of got us going. We just stalled out and that’s the disappointing part on that last drive.”

It was 4th-and-15 when Falcons coach Mike Smith elected to attempt a 52-yard field goal. Matt Bryant made the first one, but Saints coach Sean Payton called timeout to ice Bryant, who was wide left on the second kick.

Ryan supported the decision not to go for the fourth-and-15.

“We are prepared for that every week,” Ryan said. “We have those plays in (the game plan.) We trust Smitty. I thought it was the right call.”

Ryan was sacked five times and hit 10 times against the Saints. The Falcons are searching for answers before they play the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 1.

“That’s one of those things, you’ve got to keep playing,” Ryan said. “I actually thought our offensive line did a pretty good job tonight. We came out and we were physical. I thought that they fought really hard.”