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It’s officially time to panic for Atlanta Falcons

After opening the season with five straight wins, the Atlanta Falcons are officially in free-fall mode after losing five of their last six games.

Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at home highlighted the team’s downward spiral to perfection, as the offense couldn’t get anything going and the defense struggled to get off the field. Thanks in part to a big game by Adrian Peterson, Minnesota dominated the time-of-possession battle, won the turnover battle (3-to-1) and converted 24 first downs.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan struggled to find his receivers downfield, with tight end Jacob Tamme registering the longest catch of the day (22 yards). Ryan finished with just one touchdown and two interceptions. He’s been downright average — or worse — the past seven games for Atlanta, throwing 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Julio Jones had a pedestrian outing (for him), catching five passes for just 56 yards, frustrating fantasy owners across the nation expecting another big day from the top receiver in the league. And, while running back Tevin Coleman did manage to bust out with 110 rushing yards on 18 carries, he lost a fumble early in the game.

Atlanta’s defense is pretty toothless these days, despite the presence of head coach Dan Quinn, who made a name for himself with the Seattle Seahawks as a defensive guru.

Heading into Week 12, the Falcons had only managed 12 sacks — worst in the NFL — and failed to add to that total Sunday. And, after a minus-two turnover ratio against the Vikings, Atlanta is now minus-three on the year, which is among the worst on the league as well.

Now five games behind undefeated Carolina in the NFC South, the Falcons only have the wild card to look forward to as a means to save this season. Given the way this franchise has crumbled of late, with no discipline and very little spark on either side of the ball, teams like Seattle and Chicago appear to have much more momentum heading down the home stretch.

This isn’t what the rookie head coach envisioned when his team started out so hot to open the season, and it will be fascinating to see how Quinn handles the building pressure.

There is no doubt the team is in do-or-die mode the rest of the season. Given the way things have gone down since Week 6 when the New Orleans Saints shocked Atlanta with its first loss of the season, panic is certainly setting in for the Falcons and their fans.

Up next is a three-game road trip starting with NFC South rival Tampa Bay, which can move into second place in the division with a win next weekend. From there, the Falcons will travel to Carolina and then Jacksonville. One or two more losses in this stretch would likely doom Atlanta’s season, which began with such great promise.