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Dan Quinn’s Falcons play a lot of close games, which seems ominous for Atlanta’s final nine games

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The team wins more than half of those games, but in a year of lousy defense, their habit of playing them may be a cause for concern.

New York Giants v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Many of you have remarked over the last few years that Dan Quinn’s Falcons seem to find themselves in a lot of close games. Coming out of the bye week and with this team hanging on to faint playoff hopes for dear life, I thought it might be worth taking a look at whether that’s actually the case, especially compared to Quinn’s predecessor.

So, what is Dan Quinn’s overall record as a head coach in games settled by seven points or fewer? It’s a fairly unremarkable 19-16 in 35 close games (.543), and 64% of the games DQ has coached in Atlanta have come down to that margin. In comparison, Mike Smith had a 33-21 record (.585) in 53 one-score games out of the 112 he coached, or 47% of his total. Smitty’s team tended to be on one end or the other of a blowout far more often than Quinn’s Falcons.

What do we make of this? While there are so many factors we could dive into that would color this one way or the other—Atlanta’s injuries, their opponents, or their tendencies—the fact is that the Falcons have a habit of playing in games that come down to the wire under Dan Quinn, and the team is not in the habit of winning those games at a clip that would be considered stellar. In 2017, Atlanta was just one of four teams across the NFL to play 10 games that came down to a single score margin, so this is something that sticks out.

The good news is that a team’s success in one-score games can swing pretty wildly from one year to the next—if every one-score game went the opposite way in 2017, for example, the Panthers would have been 5-11, which points to some quality luck—and there’s nothing in Quinn’s history that suggests his teams are not good in those situations. The rate at which these Falcons find themselves in those kinds of games suggests that they are not great at salting teams away, however, and that’s a cause for some anxiety as the Falcons try to navigate the rest of their 2018 slate with a depleted defense.