Jump to content

Atlanta Falcons Look Tough Under Dan Quinn? No Surprise There


Recommended Posts


ATLANTA -- Strolling the sidelines before Monday's season opener, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff carried the type of cool demeanor that has so often defined him -- but also escaped him late in each of the past two years.

A new season often brings such serenity to a man in his position. In this league, a few months' time is generally enough to heal a bruised soul.

"I feel really good about this," Dimitroff said, looking in the direction of his new head coach, Dan Quinn, who was making some rounds of his own. " (Quinn) just has such a positive demeanor. It's contagious. Everyone feeds off of it."

As a reporter or a fan, it's easy to dismiss this optimism as spin. Hope in early September is like a weed: The winter might kill it, but even the slightest bit of sunshine can bring it back to the surface. Atlanta's recent history is a perfect example.

But soon after the Falcons' season kicked off Monday night, you didn't need words to make you believe this year might actually be different. You only needed eyes. Through most of four quarters -- yes, even as Chip Kelly's offense stepped up its pace -- the attitude and approach on both sides of the football looked notably different.

"It's all about playing fast and physical," wide receiver Julio Jones said on the field immediately following Atlanta's 26-24 win over Philadelphia, fresh off a performance that earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

It begs a question: Shouldn't we all have seen this coming?

No doubt the result of too many unfulfilled expectations over the past few years, the Falcons made changes -- starting with the addition of Quinn -- that should've made Monday's success less of a surprise than it was. That's not to say the NFL is full of haters or doubters when it comes to theFalcons. Nobody can be blamed for taking a wait-and-see approach to a team with a first-time head coach. But among all of the Week 1 overreactions, it might not be an overreaction at all to say theFalcons have jumped to a new tier of NFC contenders in just one game.

0ap3000000529926.jpgThink about it: The question has rarely been a matter of talent and skills -- but rather, toughness and strategy. When you couple Quinn's culture with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's creativity, you already have remedied a bulk of those previous deficiencies. That's an oversimplified perspective, no doubt, but the premise holds some weight.

And we saw exactly that Monday. We saw it in the creative ways Shanahan deployed Matt Ryan, utilizing play action and a fast pace to turn an offense that has been so inexplicably boring into one that actually pushes the potential of its skills players. It is a reminder of Shanahan's schematic brilliance.

How did we not see this coming? How did we so quickly forget what Shanahan did with Matt Schaub in Houston? Why didn't we recall the transcendent rookie season Shanahan fostered from Robert Griffin III? Give the guy Ryan and Julio Jones and Roddy White, and you've got 2016's front-runner for upcoming head-coaching vacancies.

But this is far from Shanahan's show right now. It's one thing to employ smart offensive strategies. It's quite another to have a team willing to buy into a culture of toughness and physicality. Quinn has turned a soft (yes, soft) defense into an attacking unit capable of keeping pace with Philly's up-tempo attack. The Falcons were tackling better than we've seen them do in years. And while they did, in fact, let the Eagles back into the game during the second half, a late third-down stop that led to a crucial missed field goal proved they weren't willing to lay down easy.

This might sound like a far-too-excited look at a team after just one game, but let us not forget just how bad Atlanta's defense performed last season. On average, teams put up more plays and yards per drive against the Falcons than any other team in the NFL. You could easily make a case that Atlanta's D was the league's softest, most vulnerable unit. And so, when the Falcons are able to thwart a team that is constantly praised for its incredible pace, that's not just an impressive start. That's an incredible turnaround.

We'll have to find out how teams are able to adjust to what Atlanta did Monday. This was the first chance any of us got to see what Quinn would do with the Falcons' defense and Shanahan with the offense. Now, opponents will have plenty of tape to dissect and scheme against.

The next two games are against the Giants and Cowboys, both on the road. If the Falcons can pull out even one of two wins, they'll be sitting at 2-1 overall and within conference play. You easily could have made the case, just three days ago, that Atlanta would have been a prime team to open the season with three straight losses.

So, yes, the Falcons have new hope. They have new optimism. But perhaps unlike years past, we're not looking at a team that will die by winter.

Maybe this time, the hope was warranted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone seems shocked that we have a team. When you rebuild with a pb starting qn, you're gonna be decent. Not to mention we have Julio.

man this is totally off target but does reflect the change that the article speaks of. your sig shows Roddy doing his thing and i clearly remember when Roddy pulled one and Smitty goes over to him while he's on the bench celebrating, telling him about if he doesn't land on his feet it will be a penalty. then he says you make sure you stick the landing like Mary Lou Retton (sp?)...and Roddy looks at him like WTF, who? it was too funny but just showed how cautious Smith was as a HC. anyway...back to Quinn!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In all honesty, it wasn't the defense that fully let the Eagles back into the game, the offense had a huge part in that. Two very big turnovers, one in the end zone and a pick six. Take those away and we coast to a HUGE win.

All in all, very impressed with the defensive play against a relentless, constantly moving and attacking offense even despite the lapses in the second half. I was getting winded just watching so I can gather why our guys were gulping for air. I really think if our offense can go out there and play turnover free football and execute their game plan, we have the defense that will give some quality stops to earn us a "W" almost every time.

Let's go slay some Giants! RISE UP!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...