Sunday’s 53-32 loss to the Texans was embarrassing, to say the least. The Falcons defense looked totally unprepared and confused. Atlanta’s pass rush managed zero sacks against an offensive line averaging almost 5 per game. The secondary got dismantled by Houston QB Deshaun Watson, who posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating, an 84.8% completion percentage, 12.9 yards per attempt, and 5 TDs. Houston converted an incredible 77% of their third down attempts.
This on a day when the Falcons offense had their highest point total of the season, and actually had the lead at halftime. Despite a strong overall game from Matt Ryan, who was under constant pressure, the offense found themselves in a double-digit deficit throughout much of the second half. Week 5 felt very much like Week 1, Week 3, and Week 4—except this time, the defense was worse. Much, much worse.
The Falcons had never allowed a 50-burger under Dan Quinn and this defensive performance will likely go down as the worst of Quinn’s entire coaching career. In a must-win game, Quinn put forth by far his worst defensive effort. If I was running this team, that’d be a fire-able offense. But Blank appears willing to give Quinn time to right the ship—for now.
To put the overall badness of this performance into context, I went digging to try to find a worse performance. First, I tried to find one during Dan Quinn’s tenure, but there weren’t any. The Falcons did allow two 40+ point games, both in 2018, but neither came close to the abomination we witnessed in Houston. So I had to keep digging, and that digging took me back almost 15 years to the 2004 season.
The last time the Falcons allowed a 50+ point game was in 2004. It was Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Falcons lost 56-10. They allowed over 500 yards, including 271 on the ground, and an incredible 8 rushing TDs. Funny enough, Atlanta ended up going 11-5 that season and winning a playoff game against the St. Louis Rams.
But let’s just let that sink in for a moment: the Falcons just played their worst defensive game in almost 15 years. Also keep in mind that this was probably a must-win game for the team if they wanted to salvage any playoff hopes—the Falcons now have to go 8-3 the rest of the way just to have a winning record—and a major opportunity for Quinn to show he hadn’t lost the team.
Well, if you weren’t sure about Quinn losing the team before Week 5, you can probably be sure about it now. The Falcons defense was so predictable and easy to read that Deshaun Watson dissected the scheme in it’s entirety in about 90 seconds during his post-game presser:
Deshaun Watson's treatise on the Atlanta Falcons defense, as requested @billbarnwell pic.twitter.com/3JyfYMmMoI— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 6, 2019
Despite the simplicity and predictability of the scheme for the opposing offense, Falcons players—particularly in the secondary—seemed to be confused and out of position constantly. I don’t know whether that’s due to a lack of adequate preparation, or possibly due to the Texans using their knowledge of the scheme to put stress on individual CBs (usually Isaiah Oliver).
At any rate, if you came away from yesterday’s game feeling like this was one of the worst defensive performances in Falcons history, you were spot on. What are your thoughts on the Falcons Week 5 performance, and the situation of the defense as a whole? Is the vanilla, predictable scheme to blame? The players? Both?