A gut-turning loss to the Dallas Cowboys can’t linger.
That was the message this week from Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who wants his team to reset and file away what happened last weekend. The way the loss occurred was brutal — up 20-0 after a quarter and 29-10 at halftime, followed by a late-game collapse and failure to cover a slow-rolling onside kick — but Quinn is looking for his team to rebound instead of fall into a losing skid after its 0-2 start.
“I reminded the team, it still counts as one loss,” Quinn said. “As pissed off and disappointed as we are, I wanted to make sure that’s the case. But I also reminded them that there can be no more tale of two halves. It has to be the execution, the consistency from the first snap all the way through the final play. To me, that’s the message that I was getting across to them as we’re going through things. So, no more tale of two halves. But, we got through our meetings and went through everything.
“We’ll turn our attention to Chicago and we’ll fight like hell and reset, but I wanted to make sure that we were very clear on that in terms of how we’re going to go moving forward and what’s expected from all of us. That responsibility is on everyone — players, coaches — everyone, period.”
Atlanta returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday badly in need of a victory against the 2-0 Chicago Bears. While the Falcons are winless through two games, they aren’t in an overwhelming hole in the NFC South. Co-leaders New Orleans and Tampa Bay are 1-1, while Atlanta and Carolina are a game out of first.
But 0-3 would be a different story for a team that staggered to a 1-7 start in 2019. It finished 6-2 to save Quinn’s job, though the blown game against Dallas has sparked rumblings from fans about his job status already this season.
Quinn, ever the optimist, said he tunes out the noise about his job.
“For me to spend too much time thinking about what ifs or anything past that, I felt like it would be a real disservice to the players and to the team and everybody who’s busting their ass to get it right,” Quinn said. “Yeah, I’m human and we all have that side, but I do have a space where I can clear it out and get on to the next thing quickly. I think in coaching that’s an important one. I’m not going to say it’s a short-term memory. But if you let everything jam you up and you can get in your own head, it can affect how you coach, how you live.
“I know what the team needs from me. That’s straight accountability, honesty, energy from me. So, I try to make sure that I can deliver that to them on a regular and constant basis and be the same guy that shows up on the best days at work and days like (Sunday’s loss to Dallas), on the worst days at work. I want to make sure that they’re seeing that kind of consistency from me knowing that I’m going to be there and deliver, 10 toes down and standing strong. That’s what the team needs from me.”
Quinn said he is pleased with some of the corrections Atlanta has made since the tough start to 2019.
“Well, I think heading into the offseason, a couple of things, one, offensively, could we reestablish some run game and protection in a better way? I thought over the first couple of weeks we’ve made strides in that space,” Quinn said. “The second piece was defensively, having opportunity to create takeaways. In the first game, creating zero, that’s certainly not going to get it done. So, to have us back in the plus in a big way, I thought that was more the style and identity that we’re looking for from forcing takeaways and creating good field position for the offense. Then, having a chance to be bold on the special teams side. I was pleased to see us stop two of (the Cowboys’) fakes as it was going into the fourth downs, but more than anything, I think this is a connected team.
“They’re hurting. We all are. No one likes to have a last-second loss, especially on a long comeback that they put together and mounted against us. Those are double frustrating and those are ones that give you the most disappointment. Past that, this is a connected team and I would think they will come right back and get ready to get rocking again.”
Unfortunately, the Falcons may have to rock shorthanded.
Julio Jones’ hamstring injury continues to be a problem, adding to a list of early-season injuries that piled up more last week with offensive tackle Kaleb McGary (knee), safety Ricardo Allen (elbow), linebacker Foye Oluokon (hamstring), defensive end Dante Fowler (ankle) and defensive end Takk McKinley (groin). Projected starting cornerback Kendall Sheffield (foot) and rookie defensive lineman Marlon Davidson (knee) haven’t played through two games.
Getting some of those players back will help a defense that has surrendered big games from quarterbacks Russell Wilson of Seattle and Dak Prescott of Dallas already. Seattle scored 38 on Atlanta in the opener, and Dallas put up 40 last week.
“I think more than anything you talk about the explosive plays (allowed),” Quinn said. “That was a big one where (the Cowboys) had three of them, but then more than anything, we went back to dig hard on the red zone and make sure that that part, when you’re able to make some stops there and kick some field goals, that’s going to be a big factor. We’ve got to be able to do that.”
While the Falcons found a way to lose a close game last weekend, the Bears have experienced the opposite. Chicago has pulled out a pair of four-point victories the first two weeks, 27-23 over the Lions and 17-13 over the Giants.
“I spend my time thinking about the team and our execution and how we’re going to go play,” Quinn said. “My focus, my attention, my time is on our team, the locker room and the players. Really that’s where I keep my focus and moving ahead here to Chicago.”