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Falcons Reverting Back to Bad Habits

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The Atlanta Falcons are becoming the face of starting off fast just to crash and burn. Just last season, Atlanta sprinted off to a 5-0 start, but they went just 3-8 during their next 11 games and ended up missing the playoffs for the third straight season. As we fast-forward to the here and now, Atlanta may have fooled us once again. After winning their first four of five games, which includes victories in Denver and Oakland, many believed Dan Quinn’s ball club finally turned the corner. In all actuality, that still could be the case, but after dropping two in a row, there’s plenty of room for doubt.

To be fair, Atlanta fell victim to poor officiating down the stretch in Seattle last week. Only needing a field goal to win, quarterback Matt Ryan launched a desperation deep ball to Julio Jones on fourth down, which ended up in an incompletion, but Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman got away with an obvious pass interference, as he grabbed Julio’s arm.

By the same token, you often hear coaches say how you can’t put yourself in position to allow officials to dictate the game. Quinn is no different in that sense. 

“As you go through the last play — usually one game doesn’t define us. So we’ll look at it,” Quinn told reporters after the heartbreaking defeat in Seattle. “We certainly had other opportunities in the game to go capitalize and finish, so we won’t let it come down to one time for us, or at least comment on that.”

Nonetheless, there’s no excuse for Atlanta blowing a 27-10 lead to the San Diego Chargers over the weekend. When it comes to offensive fire power, no team is more electric than Atlanta. The Falcons rank first in total yards (3,035), yards per game (433.6), total passing yards (2,233), and points per game (32.7).

Ironically, after posting 27 points in the first half against San Diego, the Falcons were only able to muster three points in the second half, including overtime.

How often do we see teams become conservative when gaining a large lead?

More often than not, it doesn’t comeback to bite, but in the case of Atlanta, it did. The Chargers went on to win 33-30. Following the contest, Ryan explained the offensive struggles in the second half. 

“I don’t think we were conservative by any stretch of the imagination, I just don’t think we executed very well. We had some opportunities to make some plays. I need to do a better job of giving our guys an opportunity to make plays off the ball and those are the things you can try to improve at and control moving forward. But I thought the plan was solid, I thought we stayed aggressive, we just didn’t play well.”

Things don’t get any easier in the coming weeks, as the Falcons next six games are against teams with realistic playoff aspirations (Packers, Buccaneers, Eagles, Cardinals, Chiefs and Rams). Despite the upcoming obstacles, Dan Quinn remains confident.

“I knew we were equipped for it and that’s why this team is so different. They’ve got such an edge about them and such a connection to one another. We’ll go right back to the process that we had. Like I said we’re going to give credit to San Diego today. That one definitely stings. But as far as our team goes, we are right back into the process of getting ready again. The crowd was into it for us. It was a big factor for us today. We’ll need them again this week.”

While the offense deserves blame for their horrendous second half, their defense has to eliminate the big play. Atlanta ranks near the bottom of the league in yards allowed per game (386.1) and points allowed per game (28.4). Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant realizes what’s ahead for this unit.

“I really don’t care who we’re playing, honestly, because I know if we do what we’re supposed to do, we can play with anybody,” Trufant stated. “But obviously, we’ve got some good competition coming in, so we’ve got to be on our A game. Regardless of who comes in here, we’ve got to do our job.”

It’s to the end of the world for these Falcons just yet, but we’re going to learn a lot about them in the coming weeks.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.