While the Atlanta Falcons caught their fair share of breaks last season, they haven't been nearly as fortunate this time around.
A visit from the New York Jets and their struggling rookie quarterback could be just what they need to regroup.
Hoping to avoid losing three straight for the first time during the Matt Ryan era, the Falcons try to add to Geno Smith's woes Monday night.
Atlanta (1-3) opened a franchise-best 8-0 in 2012 before finishing 13-3, with seven of those wins coming by seven points or less. The Falcons, though, haven't really seen things go their way in their first four games, which have been decided by a combined 24 points.
"You just don't panic," said wideout Roddy White, who continues to play through an ankle injury. "You are what you earn in this league, so we're 1-3. You just go out there and correct the problems that you have and get ready for the next game. We know at 1-3 that we can't get back to .500 after one game."
After giving up the go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds left in a 27-23 loss at Miami in Week 3, Atlanta fell 30-23 to undefeated New England last Sunday night. Ryan completed 34 of 54 passes for a career-high 421 yards and two touchdowns, but the Falcons' potential game-tying drive was stopped on the Patriots' 10-yard line in the final minute.
They haven't lost three in a row since a six-game skid in 2007.
"Obviously, we're not where we want to be," said Ryan, who dropped to 34-6 at home. "We've got to claw ourselves back to where we want to be. It's a long haul. There's still a long way to go."
Atlanta's troubles can largely be attributed to its inability to convert in the red zone. The Falcons, who failed to score a touchdown on five of six possessions inside New England's 20, rank 29th in the league in red-zone production at 38.9 percent.
"It's killing us right now," White said. "It's something that we continue to work at, but we've got to do a little more and win some one-on-one battles, especially when it's time for one person to make the play when it's presented."
The defense has also struggled, giving up 26.0 points per game to rank 22nd in the NFL, a big step back from last season's mark of 18.7. Atlanta has also recorded just seven sacks.
The Falcons, though, would appear to have a favorable matchup against Smith, who is tied for the league lead with 11 turnovers after throwing eight interceptions and losing three fumbles.
Four of those turnovers came last Sunday in a 38-13 rout at Tennessee. Smith threw for 289 yards and a score but was sacked five times, bringing his season total to 14.
"It's just taking ownership to your mistakes and manning up," he said. "A lot falls on my shoulders as far as taking care of the ball, but that's something I have to do.
"No one wants to make those mistakes. It's something that has to stop now in order for us to progress and to get better as an offense and as a team."
The Jets (2-2) are on the verge of opening 0-3 on the road for the second time in three seasons, and while Atlanta hasn't been playing up to par, they know they have a difficult task in store.
Julio Jones leads the league with 481 receiving yards and Tony Gonzalez is coming off his best game of the year, hauling in 12 receptions for 149 yards and two scores last week.
"They're big, fast. It's definitely going to be a huge challenge for us," coach Rex Ryan said. "Playing on a Monday night with their crowd, we know it's going to be a very hostile environment."
Giving up only 79.3 rushing yards per game, New York will face an Atlanta team which continues to play without injured All-Pro running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) and has run the ball 31 times for just 94 yards in splitting its first two home games.
New York has some injury concerns of its own with starting receivers Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (concussion) banged up. If they can't go, David Nelson could be thrown into the fire after signing Wednesday.
Running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) is also uncertain to be available, but Mike Goodson is set to debut after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved