Falcons could have Matt Ryan back this Sunday

Published 6:06 pm Thursday, December 10, 2009

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Mike Smith had more injured than healthy offensive starters by the end of the Atlanta Falcons’ third loss in their last four games.

That was only part of the somber news.

The Falcons’ 34-7 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday was the team’s worst in Smith’s two years as coach. The loss left the 6-6 Falcons on the fringe of the NFC wild-card chase.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

More reason for concern: Just when the Falcons can’t afford another loss, the 12-0 New Orleans Saints come to Atlanta next week.

Perhaps intent on countering the somber mood, Smith assumed an upbeat tone on Monday.

Smith dismissed the lopsided loss to the Eagles as an “anomaly.” He insisted his team’s season is not over, and he said he hopes quarterback Matt Ryan and other injured starters can return this week.

“Guys, again, the sky is not falling, OK?” Smith told reporters.

Ryan wore street clothes and protected his turf toe injury by wearing a walking boot on the sideline on Sunday. The boot sat empty at Ryan’s locker on Monday.

Ryan wasn’t available for interviews. Smith said he hopes Ryan, who hurt his right big toe two weeks ago, will participate in the team’s first practice of the week on Wednesday.

“Of course we’re encouraged because we’re going to get a chance to see Matt out there on Wednesday,” Smith said.

When asked again about Ryan, Smith was less firm when he said “We’re hoping to see where he’s at on Wednesday. If he can come out and participate, then he’s going to come out and participate.”

Smith said the team’s medical staff was encouraged by Ryan’s progress last week.

Backup Chris Redman threw two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, in his first start since 2007.

The Falcons began the game without five offensive starters: Ryan, running back Michael Turner, receiver Michael Jenkins and offensive linemen Sam Baker and Harvey Dahl. Center Todd McClure, who left the game with a right knee injury, was the sixth starter lost.

The defense took a hit when cornerback Chris Houston left the game with a hamstring injury.

“We’ve got an injury list right now that is pretty long,” Smith said.

Turner offered a quick update on Monday, saying only “I’m better.”

The Falcons have only four games remaining to climb back into the NFC wild-card playoff picture.

When asked how the offense and the team can recover from the loss to the Eagles, receiver Roddy White didn’t have a quick answer.

“Oh man, I don’t know,” White said on Monday. “That was a tough loss for us. We’ve just got to get everybody together and keep practicing and go out there and try to fight our way to a victory. Man, hopefully we get some of our guys back this week and get everything back together and try to win us a game.”

Smith said he told his players to wipe away the loss like water off a windshield.

“I think it’s an anomaly the way we played yesterday,” Smith said. “That s how I look at it and as I told the guys when we finished our meetings today, I wanted them to be kind of like a windshield wiper and just kind of wash that game right out of their mindset. We needed to move on and put that behind us as quickly as possible so we can get ready for New Orleans.”

Smith demonstrated by moving his arm like a windshield wiper.

White, who caught a touchdown pass from Redman on the final play for the Falcons’ only score, said it may not be so easy to move past the loss to the Eagles.

“It was tough,” White said. “I can’t recall the last time we got beat like that, so soundly. They did a good job. They came in here with a great game plan and they executed their game plan and we didn’t.”