This was supposed to be the week that everything came together. With Mohamed Sanu returning from injury and added motivation to play a New England team suffering from defensive personnel issues, all the pieces were aligning for an offensive explosion. They ended up producing their biggest dud of the season. By going one for four in the red zone and two for nine on third down, the offense failed to succeed in critical situations. Dan Quinn was very vocal about his frustration.
Quinn: Third down and red zone were certainly huge factors. The stats are there. We know it by now. It’s not good enough. 13 points could have been scored, if you look at the missed and blocked field goal. I believe the preparation and process has been on point. The execution hasn’t been there. We are going to work relentlessly on it. This is a resilient group. It’s time we show that again.
We were clear about how we wanted to go out and attack. The coaches had a clear understanding of how we wanted to go out and play. We did take some chances on some fourth down opportunities. We felt that was the right thing to do. In the first half, we made one and missed one. I wanted to make sure that we were going to continue to give our guys opportunities to play.
Missed opportunities proved to be the biggest talking point. As the Patriots continued to make timely big plays, the Falcons routinely fell short. Matt Ryan missed several throws to Julio Jones and Sanu. This isn’t the first time Ryan has struggled with his downfield accuracy. For all the criticism directed towards Steve Sarkisian, Ryan should be held partially accountable for the offense’s drastic decline. He didn’t shy away from discussing those mistakes.
Ryan: I had a chance to hit Mohamed Sanu on third down in the red zone. He ran a good route. I overthrew him by a hair. That one stood out big time. It’s a play I know I can make. When you are playing a great team like New England, those are the tight coverage throws you got to hit. We had an opportunity to hit Julio on a corner route in the right side of the end zone as well. That one got away from me. We had chances to make plays. We just didn’t make them. The game would have shaken out differently, if we made those plays.
It’s a tale of being inconsistent. We aren’t the team I think we are going to be. I believe we have the right players with the right mindset to get back to where we normally are. I’m confident in our guys. There were some downfield opportunities. We just haven’t connected. It’s a long season. With my experience in this league, I know you have to get better as the season goes on. That’s where our mindset must be at this point.
Ryan wasn’t the sole reason behind the offense’s shortcomings in key situations. The bizarre fourth down decision to use Taylor Gabriel on a jet sweep generated plenty of criticism. To not use the NFL’s highest paid running back in the league on such a massive play didn’t seem like a rational decision. Quinn tried to defend the thought process behind it.
Quinn: We thought they had all the big guys inside and thought we could get the ball outside on the edge. We had difficulty getting movement against those big guys inside during the entire game. We took a shot to try to get the ball outside on the perimeter. They made a better play than us.
While everyone expected Jones to get more targets after Quinn publicly spoke about it, there is another dynamic player that isn’t being used enough. Tevin Coleman has become an afterthought on too many occasions under Sarkisian. That is a troubling sign for a game-changing weapon like Coleman. Quinn discussed his status in the offense, along with the lingering effects of it.
Quinn: I understand the concern. When you look at the stat sheet, his production isn’t where you would expect it to be. We are going to work on it going forward. Tevin is a big part of our offense. We need to keep incorporating him and Freeman into the passing game. It’s something I highly believe in.
This all comes back to getting right back to work. In terms of getting the specific parts of the situational game right. We’ve had some things that crept up early on. We didn’t run the ball like we are capable of. We had some turnovers in recent games, but that was not the case tonight. This falls on us as an entire group.
Despite being on the receiving end of a one-sided game, the mood still seemed rather upbeat. Julio Jones remains confident about the team going forward. He is focused on worrying about the task at hand rather than critics pondering the Falcons’ demise as a playoff-caliber team. The constant discussion about last season isn’t going away anytime soon. That doesn’t matter in Jones’ mind.
Jones: The last few weeks hasn’t gone our way, but we got to keep building. We aren’t worried about the outside views. You can’t control the outside and those other external factors. You got to know who you are as a man and as a competitor. We are going to keep our strong bond and staying together. We can’t worry about expectations. It’s all about us.
We aren’t thinking about last year. That was a whole different football team. That was 2016. This is 2017. For us we got to keep working. We’ll get there, but we have to keep working. You have to keep going out and proving yourself. It’s about what’s going on play by play. You drop a ball. It’s time to move forward and get ready for the next one. It’s all about consistency and opportunity. We have the opportunity to go out there, have fun, and play with our brothers. Thing may be tough right now, but the opportunity is there for us to get it right.
Ryan has a similar mindset as well. Although he acknowledges what has gone wrong, the franchise quarterback noted some encouraging signs about playing more freely. There is a sense of how this offense is falling short. By recognizing those deficiencies, they can hopefully find some sort of rhythm. The offense had the right approach against a weakened Patriots’ defense using different formations. Applying those strategies in a productive manner is the ultimate step to stop this offensive rut.
Ryan: I wouldn’t say we were tentative. The opportunities were there. We played aggressive. We just didn’t make plays. At the end of the day, that’s what you got to do. From a players’ standpoint, it comes down to those missed opportunities. When we get our chances, we got to make plays. We got some drives going. That has been the case for the last couple of games. Finishing hasn’t been there. We simply haven’t performed at the level I believe we are capable of.
I thought they played a lot more two shell coverages. They dropped eight quite a bit, while also playing a lot of man. They did a good job of keeping plays in front of them. Other than that, nothing really surprised me. I don’t think this is a letdown. Our energy is there during practices. We just got to figure out why we aren’t executing like we are capable of. It’s about being detailed and diligent in practice. To me that’s what will help the most. I don’t think there is a letdown from our staff or guys. The intent has been there. It’s the production that hasn’t matched the intent.