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Through four games, are the Falcons’ three pillars beginning to crack?


Goober Pyle
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https://theathletic.com/1251609/2019/09/29/through-four-games-are-the-falcons-three-pillars-beginning-to-crack/

 

Dan Quinn brought three pillars to the Falcons when he took over as head coach in 2015. This spring, he talked about his program’s culture and went over those pillars and why they are vital to the team’s success.

When his players, assistants and support staff buy into these three pillars, the idea is the result will take care of itself.

But what happens when the pillars show signs of cracking?

After Atlanta’s 24-10 home loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, it’s fair to wonder whether these three pillars — ball, battle and brotherhood — still stand firm.

Here’s what we know through four games:

When it comes to the brotherhood, there is no evidence, yet, to suggest there has been any sort of wholesale buyout. The players still seem to follow Quinn’s lead. They still repeat the same sayings in the locker room. They still put on the motivational T-shirts found inside their lockers. Each week, they still seem to be in lockstep with one another in intrasquad relationships.

Of course, reporters and outsiders see only a snapshot of their lives. No one except them truly knows how the players are doing with one another when the cameras cut off or when the lights dim.

“Everybody’s going to have their opinions on the team, what we’re doing, whatever,” receiver Julio Jones said. “This is our life. We come to work every day. We’re in it for one another. That’s all we need. We don’t need anyone else. We’ll make it happen.”

Despite the poor start to the season, the second consecutive 1-3 beginning to a campaign, the team still has the feel of a tight-knit group.

As for the ball and battle pillars? The Falcons, to borrow Quinn’s words, are missing the mark quite a bit there.

When it comes to the ball, Atlanta hasn’t done enough to protect it on offense or to take it away on defense. Against the Titans, Matt Ryan took a sack on Atlanta’s third drive and fumbled the ball away. He felt like he had enough time in the pocket and that he had the ball secured. Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey swiped the ball out of his hands and recovered it. That was Ryan’s seventh turnover of the season.

The Falcons defense, conversely, has only posted three takeaways for the season, and all of those came in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. While the Falcons forced three punts and got a fourth-down stop in the second half Sunday, the game-changing turnovers needed to flip a game were absent.

For the season, the Falcons are minus-5 in turnover differential. It’s hard to win games when you struggle at protecting the ball and taking it away.

As for the battle, this is where most of the unanswered questions exist. It doesn’t appear Atlanta’s problems connect to a lack of effort. Each week, practices have gone according to plan. Everyone has felt good about the preparation entering each game. It’s not like players are quitting on the field, even when it was evident that games against Minnesota and Tennessee weren’t going to go their way. Trailing 20-3 at the half in Indianapolis, the Falcons rallied and at least made it interesting.

Of course, effort doesn’t equate to success. Teams still need tangible qualities to win more often than not. And right now, the Falcons don’t appear to have an answer for why things are heading south so early.

“I don’t like our execution, that’s for sure,” Ryan said. “I do like the way we play — hard, tough, physical, and there’s no quit. Those are qualities where if we can tighten things up and get things corrected and be better with our technique, those are things that will help you win games.”

While the effort might be great, the details have been lacking. For instance, the Falcons were down by 14 in the fourth quarter but driving at the Tennessee 31-yard line. On first-and-10, Ryan threw a short pass to Devonta Freeman that went for 9 yards. The play also drew a 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty from center Alex Mack, who seemingly would be the most unlikely player to have this occur. Safety Kenny Vaccaro rushed the quarterback but got caught up in the trash at the line of scrimmage. After Vaccaro ended up on the ground, Mack fell hard on him to keep him there, which is generally a legal play. Mack’s arms, however, extended out, with his right elbow forcefully hitting Vaccaro on the head. A referee threw a flag, and the Falcons lost a big play plus another 15 yards at a crucial moment.

Atlanta subsequently was unable to score points.

“I just wanted to finish in the pocket, stop guys from getting to my quarterback,” Mack said. “That’s all I was trying to do. Unfortunately, I was too violent, and the ref didn’t like it. I got flagged for it and can’t do it again.”

The loss to the Titans is incredibly tough to explain, considering how pedestrian Tennessee’s passing offense had been. But in the first half, Marcus Mariota and A.J. Brown looked like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. The Titans offense did a good job of scheming the middle of the field open, which is how Brown got loose for his first touchdown. He was wide open for a pass before turning it upfield for a 55-yard score. Mariota found Brown again later in the opening quarter for an 11-yard touchdown.

Four games in, no one seems to know what to think. Last year, the Falcons could point to the rash of injuries they suffered early in the year and how that discombobulated them defensively. While losing Keanu Neal hurts this season, Atlanta has most of its stars available. Everyone is still available to play up front and at linebacker. The starting corners haven’t missed a game. Ricardo Allen is still leading the entire defense at the free safety position.

Atlanta took a hit on the offensive line by losing Chris Lindstrom for an extended period. But that’s about it on that side of the ball. The Falcons simply don’t have an excuse this year. They’re just not playing well and can’t figure out why.

Again, the effort might be there. But they keep losing the battle.

“There’s nobody more frustrated and upset than us,” Quinn said. “We’re putting the work in, but we don’t deliver on the results. You want to find that process and tweak it how we need to, and we’ll continue to do that.”

 

 

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2 minutes ago, SkerFalcon8710 said:

10 points against the titans is inexcusable by an offense taking up 2/3 of the payroll 

The only team that has scored less in the NFC is the Redskins by 4 points with heavy hitters like Case Keenum, Adrian Peterson and Trey Quinn. Oh and can't forget Vernon Davis!

Edited by PriMeTiiMe
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The Quinn regime needs to look at everything

Running backs. Somewhere they decided that Freeman would get 75 - 80 percent of the carries. Smith comes in inside the red-zone otherwise he just gives Freeman a breather. How's that working?

TEs. Hooper is eating with the coverage on Julio and Ridley but then they use Stocker as another option. Maybe Stocker is a good blocker, I can't tell, but as a pass catcher? How's that working?

Campbell is back covering TEs and he was very active against the Titans. Now Oliver and Tru are exposed in man coverage. How's that working?

Seems to me to be a problem with the coaching scheme. Yes there are problems with penalties and bad tackling and angles. Problems with receivers getting open, but what this looks like is bad coaching philosophy. That's where it starts.

 

Edited by FinalScore2.0
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10 minutes ago, SkerFalcon8710 said:

10 points against the titans is inexcusable by an offense taking up 2/3 of the payroll 

When you draft defense for over decade, the payroll goes to Offense. The Defense has so much draft capital in last 11 years with nothing to show for, offense at least did something over the years.

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7 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

They have no running game so teams are pinning their ears back going after the passer.

Embrace the Suck.

No doubt. Look at the Bills and Pats game. There was no offense but Pats defense got 4 turnovers, ST blocked a punt and got the W. This is a team game, can’t depend on one phase to win the game.

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This is a good even handed article. It doesn't get into the name calling and absurdity that abounds in this place after a loss. It shows that the team is frustrated and struggling to deal with the changes they made this offseason. The biggest disappointment is on the offensive side of the ball.

Sure the defense isn't showing a lot of signs of improvement and at times looks confused, but the offense should be cruising. Koetter ball isn't working. Teams seem to know the plays and the plays aren't very good. Why can't this team get another creative play caller. Why does it always have to be the same retreads.

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Just now, SkerFalcon8710 said:

Over the years does not give them an excuse to suck this hard

No excuse. Bottom line high powered offenses also buckle if the D sucks. Pats didn’t do anything offensively, their D and ST carried. Pats O just sat back and had luxury to do nothing. 

This team is flawed and depends on perfect offense.

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1 minute ago, Jesus said:

This is a good even handed article. It doesn't get into the name calling and absurdity that abounds in this place after a loss. It shows that the team is frustrated and struggling to deal with the changes they made this offseason. The biggest disappointment is on the offensive side of the ball.

Sure the defense isn't showing a lot of signs of improvement and at times looks confused, but the offense should be cruising. Koetter ball isn't working. Teams seem to know the plays and the plays aren't very good. Why can't this team get another creative play caller. Why does it always have to be the same retreads.

I hate those long developing plays and the titans had better game plan than DK and offense. Why can’t the Falcons D prepare that way to stop back up QB. 

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Just now, falcons007 said:

No excuse. Bottom line high powered offenses also buckle if the D sucks. Pats didn’t do anything offensively, their D and ST carried. Pats O just sat back and had luxury to do nothing. 

This team is flawed and depends on perfect offense.

I dont want to hear a single thing about what that dynasty is doing. Were not even in the same league as them so dont use them as some comparable team. They do everything better than we do. 

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2 minutes ago, SkerFalcon8710 said:

I dont want to hear a single thing about what that dynasty is doing. Were not even in the same league as them so dont use them as some comparable team. They do everything better than we do. 

It’s just an example, there are many teams which win every year who do the same. Aints Offense didn’t do much from second half last year. Good teams and coaches can over come. Heck even MS had defense helping out couple of games in a year. 

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5 minutes ago, falcons007 said:

I hate those long developing plays and the titans had better game plan than DK and offense. Why can’t the Falcons D prepare that way to stop back up QB. 

What has Koetter done in the past 5 years to adapt his offense to the modern NFL. I remember when Quinn hired Shanny he said Shanahan was one of the most difficult OCs to plan against, even though they had only faced each other once in the past. Meanwhile Quinn has faced Koetter a bunch of times in both Seattle and Atlanta and one pretty well against him.

The Falcons have done well with the quick hitters this year.  

I think the Falcons are preparing for the games. It just looks like they are confused once they get on the field. It's like they are preparing for something else. The team isn't reading and reacting like they should. The defense is full of smart, fast players who should be able to deal with things as they happen. Except once they start happening, they are super slow to react.

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1 minute ago, Jesus said:

What has Koetter done in the past 5 years to adapt his offense to the modern NFL. I remember when Quinn hired Shanny he said Shanahan was one of the most difficult OCs to plan against, even though they had only faced each other once in the past. Meanwhile Quinn has faced Koetter a bunch of times in both Seattle and Atlanta and one pretty well against him.

The Falcons have done well with the quick hitters this year.  

I think the Falcons are preparing for the games. It just looks like they are confused once they get on the field. It's like they are preparing for something else. The team isn't reading and reacting like they should. The defense is full of smart, fast players who should be able to deal with things as they happen. Except once they start happening, they are super slow to react.

It just seems like they come up with generic game plan. Titans D knew exactly what Falcons were gonna do, there was no adjustment. And offense has changed, the players are thinking instead of playing. 

Our defense isn’t going through a scheme change like offense and I just think it is not dynamic enough to adapt. It worked in SEA because of talent, not disguise or variations. 

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1 minute ago, falcons007 said:

It just seems like they come up with generic game plan. Titans D knew exactly what Falcons were gonna do, there was no adjustment. And offense has changed, the players are thinking instead of playing. 

Our defense isn’t going through a scheme change like offense and I just think it is not dynamic enough to adapt. It worked in SEA because of talent, not disguise or variations. 

Thinking instead of playing...That's so true. It's what pee wee coaches try to instill. It's what happened in 2013-14 when everything was falling apart. It's what not happened down the stretch in 2016. 

Quinn has definitely done some new things on defense. He has made some tweaks here and there. At times the defense looks like those "amoeba" defenses of the past. Lots of guys moving around and standing. I think he is overthinking everything.

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1 minute ago, Jesus said:

Thinking instead of playing...That's so true. It's what pee wee coaches try to instill. It's what happened in 2013-14 when everything was falling apart. It's what not happened down the stretch in 2016. 

Quinn has definitely done some new things on defense. He has made some tweaks here and there. At times the defense looks like those "amoeba" defenses of the past. Lots of guys moving around and standing. I think he is overthinking everything.

You may be right he is overthinking.I remember Spoon tweeting how vanilla the defense looked in last two weeks. I mean career back ups and bottom level QB are slicing and dicing this defense. DQ may be needs to focus on stopping key guys in Houston.

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36 minutes ago, falcons007 said:

When you draft defense for over decade, the payroll goes to Offense. The Defense has so much draft capital in last 11 years with nothing to show for, offense at least did something over the years.

Really?

I recall the last 3 first round picks being for the offense.

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