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Atlanta Falcons

Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel | Player Wire

Atlanta Falcons first-year coach Dan Quinn has pushed all of the buttons he can with the hope of pulling his team out of its downward spiral after a 5-0 start to the season.

Nothing has seemed to work. He even endorsed a players-only meeting last week in order to get the team on the same page.

It didn't work.

The Falcons have now dropped five consecutive games and are set to face MVP candidate quarterback Cam Newton and the undefeated Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. ET Sunday in Charlotte.

The former defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks was still seething Monday about Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston picking up a third-and-19 on a scramble on which he ran through four tackles the previous day.

A couple of players thought Winston was down and didn't swarm to the ball.

"When I watched it for the second time it was really frustrating, and one that makes you sick when you watch at it to see a play like that and not have the type of mindset to go get it at the end," Quinn said. "Yeah, it was clearly an example of (not swarming to the ball) because there's no guarantee, even in that that spot, there's still going to be a long field goal."

Quarterback Matt Ryan also had another bad interception. With 1:30 to play, he tossed an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David. Ryan has thrown 13 interceptions, including six over the past three games.

"The guy just had good depth on it," Quinn said. "There's a certain coverage and style that they play. Sometimes they'll play a back closer and sometimes deeper, so that's kind of the scheme that goes with it."

Ryan understood the coverage, but given the situation, was trying to make a big play that wasn't available.

"I think he understood where the coverage was, and then sometimes like what I was referring to at the moment, 'Okay, that one's not there, so I've got to go somewhere else,'" Quinn said. "I think that he saw him, but I don't know if he thought he could throw over him. In that coverage specifically, it's pretty clear where the guys are maneuvered."

Just two weeks ago, the Falcons had the top-ranked run defense in the league. They missed 15 tackles against Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings and missed "double-digit" tackles against the Bucs, according to Quinn.

The Winston play was clearly sticking with Quinn.

"Anytime it's a double-digit that's usually the ratio when you're at that many, that's when it's at its worst." Quinn said.

The Falcons have to get over the devastating loss and get ready for the undefeated Panthers, who have clinched the NFC South an unprecedented third straight time.

"I think the reason I have such belief about what we can do is because of my belief in the team and what I think we can become," Quinn said. "As we're starting this fourth quarter of the season it's my belief in the players that enables me to have this vision of what I want us to play like, and the style and the attitude that I want us to go after the ball defensively, and the way we own it and attack offensively. I guess that's where that stems from is my belief in these players."

If the Falcons couldn't get Winston to the ground, what are they going to do with Cam Newton?

"He's a terrific runner and every time we're going into prepare there's obviously a style and attitude that you need to tackle with," Quinn said. "I think the people that can break the tackles and have the juice to make somebody miss, you better be on point with your tackling and we will be."

Notes, Quotes

With Sunday's loss by the Falcons, the Carolina Panthers clinched their third consecutive NFC South title.

Seattle defeated Minnesota to improve 7-5. The Falcons trail Seattle by a game and now do not have a head-to-head advantage over the Bucs, who are 6-6 and swept them for the first time since the 2010 season.

The Falcons, in the midst of an historic collapse, need to win out and get plenty of help to make the playoffs.

Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, 66 of 72 teams that started 5-0 went on to make the playoffs. The Falcons appear on their way to becoming the seventh team to not make the playoffs after a 5-0 start. The most recent team to do so was the 2011 Denver Broncos, who finished 8-8 under then coach Josh McDaniels, after a 5-0 start.

All three Falcons offensive stars have been calling for the unit to pick up the pace to get on track. Going up-tempo seemed to work for the Falcons near the end of the first half Sunday.

The Falcons needed just 3:54 to go 63 yards in 10 plays on a drive that concluded with Shayne Graham's 47-yard field goal to pull them within 7-6 with about a minute left in the half.

The Falcons substituted players during the drive, but quarterback Matt Ryan didn't huddle and was quick to the line. He was 6-for-7 for 78 yards on the drive, including a 23-yard completion to Justin Hardy to convert a third-and-11 from the Falcons' 7-yard line after Ryan scrambled away from pressure.

The drive stalled when Ryan fumbled on a hit by unblocked blitzer Kwon Alexander and Falcons running back Tevin Coleman recovered at the 50. But the offense seemed to find a rhythm when operating with no huddle.

Strategy & Personell


QB Matt Ryan completed 30 of 45 passes for 269 yards and one touchdown. Ryan has now has thrown for at least 200 yards in 38 straight road games, which leads the NFL.

WR Julio Jones passed former Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison for fourth on the franchise's all-time receiving list on his sixth reception of the game. That catch was also Jones' 100th catch on the season. This is the sixth time in franchise history that a receiver has had at least 100 receptions in a season. Additionally, this is the second time Jones has recorded at least 100 receptions in a season.

RB Devonta Freeman finished the game with 10 receptions -

a new career high - for 56 yards. He also had 14 carries for 47 yards. This was Freeman's eighth game this season with at least 100 total yards.

CB Desmond Trufant recorded his first interception of the season.

LB Paul Worrilow forced his first fumble of the season, which was recovered by free safety Ricardo Allen.

DT Grady Jarrett recorded the first sack of his career in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with four solo tackles and one tackle for loss.


PASSING OFFENSE: D. Matt Ryan threw a key interception and has thrown six over the past three games. He completed 30 of 45 passes for 269 yards and one touchdown. However, wide receiver Julio Jones is dumbfounded about why the Falcons have excluded him from the red zone offense and haven't thrown him a lot of fades or high passes where he can high-point the ball. Devonta Freeman caught 10 check-downs for 56 yards. Roddy White had three catches for 33 yards as Ryan spread the ball around to eight different receivers.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus. Freeman returned after missing the last game with a concussion. He was held in check for most of the day and that contributed to another poor game in the red zone. The Falcons have not had a rushing touchdown since playing New Orleans on Oct. 15. Freeman had 14 rushes for 47 yards. Overall, the Falcons rushed 18 times for 64 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: D. Safety Robenson Therezie had a late pass interference call that nullified an interception by linebacker Paul Worrilow. The Bucs went on score the game-winning touchdown. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston completed 18 of 27 passes for 227 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

RUN DEFENSE: F. The unit allowed 166 yards rushing on 37 attempts. While trying to hold onto a 19-16 lead, the defense allowed Winston to break free and scramble for a 20 yards on third down-and-19 in the fourth quarter. Bucs running back Doug Martin had 95 yards rushing on 25 carries (3.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Bucs backup Charles Sims broke free for 56 yards on seven carries.

B. Shayne Graham made all four field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder. Returner Devin Hester, who was making his 2015 season debut after spending time on the short-term injured reserve list with a turf toe injury, had two kickoff returns for 47 yards and one punt return for three yards. Backed up in his end zone, punter Matt Bosher boomed a 61-yard one-step punt.

D-minus. This was the second straight game that the Falcons had more than 10 missed tackles in the run game. The defense is starting to show signs of snapping down the stretch. Ryan continues to look uncomfortable in the new offense and that is leading to turnovers. This time he had another ill-advised throw that led to a costly interception. Jones is wondering why they practice fades and jump-ball routes and then don't run them in the game. After a 5-0 start, the end to the Falcons' spiral doesn't appear to be in sight.

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