The Atlanta Falcons again got off to slow starts on both sides of the ball with a 24-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The lack of focus, energy, and enthusiasm by the Birds, shows Dann Quinn’s message has run stale.
The Atlanta Falcons forced a punt on their opponent’s first drive, and things spiraled downward from there. On the first play of the second drive, Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariotta connected with rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown on a 55-yard touchdown pass, en route to a 24 point first half.
The Atlanta offense got off to a slow start with a three and out possession. However, they came alive on their second opportunity, with a six-play, 85-yard drive to tie the game at seven.
The Atlanta offense got the ball back down by seven points and appeared to be in gear, moving all the way to the Tennessee 34 yard line. However, a sack caused Matt Ryan to fumble the football, killing the Falcons drive. It was the seventh turnover this year for the Atlanta quarterback.
The Atlanta Falcons could not manufacture any more points in the first half, as Matt Bryant clanked a field goal off the upright. The miss was a fitting end to a bad half of football.
The Atlanta Falcons scored a field goal to open the second half, but was shutout from there. The Titans did a great job of disguising coverages while getting pressure on Matt Ryan.
Offensive Dirk Koetter seemed to have no answers for the Tennessee defense, as there were often plays that had all medium to deep routes, with no easy check down for Matt Ryan. Dirk also called multiple empty backfield sets in critical situations, a formation that leaves no help for the Falcons banged-up offensive line.
Speaking of the offensive line. The attempts to shore up that position in the offseason have failed miserably. Kaleb McGary is fighting through a knee injury and taking his lumps in the process.
The most concerning thing about the Atlanta Falcons offense is the lack of balance. The team is averaging slightly less than 17 planned running plays per game. Dirk Koetter is panicking and going away from the run too soon when the team trails early in games.
In fairness to the offensive coordinator, the team hasn’t run the ball very effectively, when they have attempted to get their ground game on track. Most plays are stuffed within two yards, with the exception of a few decent runs. The run game has been feast or famine when the Atlanta Falcons need consistency.
The Atlanta Falcons signed James Carpenter and Jamon Brown in the offseason. With both men being bigger linemen at 321 and 340 pounds respectively, the hope was that they would help the team move the chains better in short-yardage running situations.
Unfortunately, that has not worked out for the Falcons either. The long-standing problem for Atlanta showed itself once again as the team failed to convert a 4th and one, with slightly less than six minutes remaining in the first half.
Devonta Freeman was stuffed by Jurrell Casey and Kenny Vaccaro for a one-yard loss, as he attempted to run left behind James Carpenter and Jake Matthews. Atlanta must get the running game on track and obtain balance, in order to keep opposing pass rushers from pinning their ears back and teeing off on Matt Ryan.
On the other side of the ball, the defense coordinated by head coach Dan Quinn has major issues. They are constantly blowing assignments, allowing opposing pass catchers to just roam freely across the middle.
Atlanta allowed the Titans, who aren’t known for being explosive offensively, to score on four of their first six possessions. The pass rush is still very inconsistent. Tackling is still a major issue as well.
The Atlanta Falcons cut their penalties down from 16 in week three to seven in week four. Yet they still showed a lack of discipline with multiple drive-killing penalties on offense and multiple drives extending plays on defense.
The Dirty Birds lead the NFL with 42 penalties. Jamon Brown leads the offense with four and has 12 penalties in his last 11 starts dating back to last season. Isaiah Oliver who is struggling in his first season as a starting cornerback, leads the defense with four penalties.
The missed assignments, penalties and lack of focus, are signs that Dan Quinn is losing the Atlanta Falcons locker room. If this tailspin continues his time remaining as the team’s head coach will be short.
Quinn seems to be pressing as a coach. He chased points by going for it on fourth down, while it was only the second quarter and Atlanta was only down 10 points. Quinn again made the call to go for it on fourth down with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, and again the club failed to convert.
Had the Falcons kicked field goals in both scenarios the team could have been in a one-score game. Had Bryant not missed before the half as well, Atlanta could have been within six points.
Speaking of before the half, Atlanta curiously let the clock tick down to the two-minute warning on defense. Had Quinn used a timeout, there could have been more time for Atlanta to conduct their two-minute offense prior to halftime, and maybe even get in the endzone.
Dan Quinn’s catchphrase for this week appears to be “dig deep.” That’s something the team definitely must do, but the Sargent of slogans doesn’t seem likely to get the ship turned around. The Atlanta Falcons certainly have the talent, but they lack cohesiveness and execution.
The team’s appearance in the Super Bowl following the 2016 season looks like an apparition when it was previously believed that the Atlanta Falcons would be perennial contenders. However, Quinn has not helped the defense and has not hired the right offensive coordinator outside of Kyle Shanahan, his first coaching hire.
On paper, the Atlanta Falcons have one of the league’s better collections of talent. Yet having talent on paper does not win football games. Dan Quinn is a great guy, but he does not appear to be a great coach. Unfortunately, it’s time for a new voice.