Quinn scrambling to find fixes to stop Falcons’ 4-game skid
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — A four-game losing streak has taken the Atlanta Falcons out of the playoff picture, leaving coach Dan Quinn with what he described as the biggest challenge of his four seasons with the team.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank reaffirmed his support for Quinn following Sunday’s 26-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Falcons (4-8) already have matched the most losses in any of Quinn’s first three seasons as they prepare to visit Green Bay on Sunday. Jobs could be on the line for players and assistant coaches in the final four games, but Quinn said that’s nothing new.
“What I can say the focus right now is how hard we can grind to get our football over this last quarter exactly right,” Quinn said, referring to the final four games. “Then, postseason we will look at everything together from personnel, players, coaches, everything just like we do all the time. That starts with me first.”
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian is under pressure to find fixes for an offense that has failed to reach 20 points in the four straight losses. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel’s unit ranks near the bottom against the run and pass.
Quinn’s 2015 team finished 8-8, one year before Atlanta made a surprising run to the Super Bowl and then returned to the playoff last season.
Quinn said he has challenged his team to improve its turnover ratio and stagnant running game. He also said he’s looking for better effort from players.
“What I’d like to see is strong, relentless effort, both on and off the field,” he said. “What do I mean when I say off the field? That’s staying even tighter, connected, preparation, mindset heading into the game. All of those things I’d like to see tick up.”
Blank was at the Falcons’ practice facility and in the locker room on Monday. On Sunday, after attending Quinn’s postgame news conference, Blank said “I haven’t lost any faith” in the coach and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Quinn said he appreciates Blank’s support “during this time of year, especially.”
“I know there are 32 teams ... and I’m aware not everyone has that type of support,” Quinn said Monday. “So I appreciate having a boss like that. I know what he stands for and I love having that connection. It’s very important.”
Quinn’s 2015 team suffered a six-game losing streak before winning two of its last three to finish .500 and establish momentum for the Super Bowl run in 2016.
This year’s team has lost seven players, including some prominent leaders, to the injured reserve. The list includes running back Devonta Freeman, starting offensive guards Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco and starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. Linebacker Deion Jones returned Sunday and led the team with 15 tackles and a sack after missing 10 games with a foot injury.
Quinn has not used injuries as an excuse for the losing streak. The four straight losses, and especially the sudden decline in scoring , are signs the drain on the team’s talent pool finally is too much to overcome.
Matt Ryan’s 131 yards passing on Sunday set a career low for a full game.
Ryan said the team’s effort was good but lack of execution was the problem.
“We need to play well,” Ryan said. “At the end of the day, I think that’s the most important thing is to play well, and we haven’t done that.”
Quinn said the missing players “have had a significant impact” in the Falcons’ “style and attitude.”
“We’re always bummed when we don’t have those players here,” he said. “That is part of it, we recognize, in the game. Some years you have more than others. This happens to be one of the years we have more.”