Falcons fans have been fuming over the poor play of the defense against Houston since Sunday. After doing some digging, we found that Atlanta’s 53-32 drubbing at the hands of the Texans was their worst defensive performance of Dan Quinn’s tenure and the most points they’ve allowed since 2004.
It appears that the national media has picked up on the embarrassing showing as well, with NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah particularly shocked with Atlanta’s schematic decisions. Jeremiah broke down a few plays by the defense, where the Falcons sent only 3 pass rushers and dropped 8 players into coverage. When the Falcons allowed huge gains and a TD on those plays—some of which featured only 3 receivers running routes versus the 8 coverage players—it prompted a shocked expression from Jeremiah and an exclamation of “This play should never happen.”
I agree with Jeremiah 100%. The scheme was nonsensical from the beginning of the game. Dan Quinn’s decision to rely on rushing 3—which is a departure from his usual defensive philosophy of trying to get pressure with 4—and dropping 8 players into coverage was a poor one against a Texans team with plenty of firepower and a porous offensive line. Houston had been allowing almost 5 sacks a game though the first four weeks, and Atlanta managed zero on Sunday. They also only recorded two pressures, according to Next Gen Stats quoted by Jeremiah.
I honestly cannot fathom the decision-making behind a gameplan that didn’t prioritize getting pressure on Texans QB Deshaun Watson. Watson is one the NFL’s rising stars, and the only thing that’s kept him down is a pretty bad offensive line and constant pressure in his face. The Falcons elected not to pressure him, instead relying on a secondary that has been beaten like a drum by the likes of Jacoby Brissett and Marcus Mariota. No offense to either of those guys, but Watson is a far superior QB.
In the end, the Falcons allowed over 400 yards, an 84.8% completion percentage, 12.9 YPA, and 5 TDs to Watson. Quinn’s “adjustments” to the defense over the past few weeks have continued to make the unit look worse and worse. Instead of leaning into more aggressive schematic decisions—like those deployed against the Eagles—the defense has continued to become more and more conservative. We’ve seen larger cushions for receivers, more players dropped into coverage, and fewer blitzes, which has resulted in a significant lack of pressure since Week 2.
Daniel Jeremiah was absolutely right: these types of plays should never happen. Sadly, it appears that Quinn’s instincts for fixing the defense are all wrong, and that’s why we saw one of the Falcons’ worst defensive performances of the 21st century in Week 5.