What Dan Quinn had to say about his 4-4 team on Monday

Nov 06, 2017
ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
September 17, 2017 Atlanta: Falcons head coach Dan Quinn watches a play against the Packers in a NFL football game on Sunday, September 17, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons coach Dan Quinn spoke to the Atlanta media on Monday for a little over 16 minutes.

He discussed the teams continued failures in short-yardage situations, the injury to kicker Matt Bryant and how the Falcons plan to rebound from their 20-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Here’s what Quinn had to say: 

Opening Statement:
“Earlier I just spoke to the team, and we’re at the midpoint right now, but by no means has the story of 2017 been written, and only the men in our building can control how that goes. It’s about our focus. It’s about our preparation, about the things that we need to improve on. Last night I hit you on some recap, and as I went back through today, offensively the third down and ones and fourth and ones were certainly a factor in the game, where we ended up being one for four in that neighborhood. Defensively, I thought the real story was down in the red zone and then going two for four. Even one of the plays was one that we had worked on in practice, so that’s always disappointing, one that you cover and go. Sometimes [it’s] the un-scouted looks. A person makes a play and beats you and you live with those as a competitor. Then the last part is the penalties that we think we can control and the unforced ones. A neutral zone infraction or jumping offsides offensively, we can control those. We’ve got lots of work to do, and we were pleased that we improved in the red zone offensively. That was an area we wanted to address over the weekend, but third down we improved defensively but offensively still have much work to do. That’s where it’s at. It comes down to us and the way we execute, the way we attack. That’s what I told the team today, but where we go from here will depend entirely on the room and where we go and attack. With that, I’m glad to open it up and give you any recap from the game or moving ahead to Dallas.”

On what he saw on film from the short yardage situations:
“When we went back through them, obviously there’s going to be some type of either technique error or break down that doesn’t allow you to get the distance that you want. On both of the runs that came up short on the third down and one and fourth and one sequence, both those issues had come up, where we either got beaten by a play or lost on a technique of a play. As we’re going back through it, we’re going to go back to see how we can do it differently and better, but yeah, there were definitely issues that were technique related in the play.”

On the disappointment in not converting third and fourth down tries:
“I don’t know if I’m following you on the second down one. I can’t speak specifically to that one, but I can talk to you about the third down and one and fourth and one. I thought the safety came up and made a good play on one, the defensive tackle and defensive end on the third down and one. When we went back through how do you get that job done when you’re called on, on the backside or on the front side, you’ve got to be able to nail it in those situations. That part we were bummed at for sure.”

On the play calling and staying aggressive:
“As you went back, that one didn’t fire me up as much, but the run opportunities to go, that definitely affects you sometimes as a play caller. You’ve gotten stuffed twice. Do you go take a shot at it? What I did like was our opportunity to stay aggressive. Although we didn’t hit it on third down at the end, I thought it was the right call taking a shot to Julio [Jones] at the end. On an earlier third-down play, they had set up one thing, and [we] were able to deliver that route where we had a good shot at it.”

On the Panthers defensive front and its approach yesterday:
“There definitely were a few of those, and give them credit in that regard because I did think their guys played really aggressive, downhill, some eight-man fronts. Not to hit on some of the shots we had because of their aggressive play was disappointing. I thought up front they played aggressive and downhill for sure, and some of the fronts were different than we had seen from them. Not to say un-scouted looks [are surprising]. That’s pretty common when you play a division opponent.”

On Julio Jones’ dropped pass:
“Well, it’s one that he wanted back for sure because it was the right look for the right thing. Probably the best that came out of that, which you guys didn’t see, was in the locker room. I thought it was probably one of the clearest demonstrations of respect and love for a teammate [with] how many guys wanted to come over and just tap him on the shoulder, and [say] we got your back 100 [percent], and just that kind of support. They know what he stands for as a competitor, and probably as important, they know what he stands for as a teammate, so that was their way to demonstrate that respect for him. Behind the scenes, that was a pretty clear example how important he is to the guys on the team.”

On Julio Jones battling through an injury:
“He definitely had to battle through a lower leg injury. To have an effect on that one, if you asked him, he would say absolutely not.”

On Jones continuing to play:
“100 percent. That has been his history his whole time here [with] his toughness. I thought [Devonta] Freeman and he both really had some opportunities to show how tough and competitive they are, and it really jumped out.”

On Jones and Freeman’s approach this week:
“No, it was not a shoulder. I’ll follow you up when we get the injury report, but no, he came through shoulder-wise good. He may be limited some Wednesday, but he came through the game well, and hopefully he’ll get more work than he did even last week.”

On whether Jones will be limited:
“He will be. I don’t know the extent of that yet until I visit with the training staff this evening, but I would presume heading in he’ll be limited heading into the week of practice.”

On defending the run with the Cowboys coming up:
“If you look, that’s really the strength or one of the strengths of their team is their ability to go. I’ve got all the confidence in our guys to do that because we really have to make sure our gap control is correct and right. For us losing some contained plays yesterday [with] quarterback draws, outside runs, they featured Cam in a way that suited his style, and when we didn’t answer on those, that was difficult for us. Yeah, we better make sure we have our run game in order against a talented front.”

On the factors contributing to more offensive plays:
“It’s a big factor in it, and the reason being is that extends [drives]. That’s another drive or at least you’d hope three more plays in the worst-case scenario. In the first half, I was very excited that we created some takeaways, and I thought Keanu specifically was as physical as could be. I think in 22 regular season games, he has something like seven fumbles. He is a guy that brings it. That’s another way that another possession gets thrown in if you throw one of those in a quarter and the next half you get another [opportunity] to get some. I won’t put it on just the offensive side on third down. That’s a clear way to do it. Yesterday the defense played better on a third down one, and in the past some drives have been extended because of having average third down performances. Yesterday that was a tick up for the defense in that way. That’s one way that you get more [is] extending 3rd down drives, creating a takeaway, playing better on third down defensively. Those are three things that I think add into that. We would like to get more runs specifically and more plays, and ways we get more runs is to get more plays. There are a number of spots that I think we can improve on, but that’s at the top of the list [with] third down and red zone emphasis for us and the turnover margin. If I had to put three things in after eight games of the ’17 season and these parts we’re going to improve on: third down offensively and defensively, red zone offensively and defensively, and our turnover margin. The reason I say that is because of the ability to create some. Those are the three areas. I think if that part comes alive like I think it can, we can be the team we can be.”

On the odd penalty called against Austin Hooper:
“I didn’t get an explanation. I’ll send that in to the league. My assumption is that it was because of a roll on the cut. That would be my intention going in that the player on the backside cut and rolled. He didn’t make contact with the player. What I didn’t get an explanation on is why it was tacked on at the end after a fourth down stop. Got some things to answer with the league, and I want to find out those. I haven’t gone through that process yet with them.”

On whether pressing offensively is a concern:
“I do [have concerns], and the reason I say that is because as a player you’ve got to really check, ‘Okay, we talked about this just this afternoon, a group of us together to say, is our process really right in terms of getting all the preparation, the details, right?’ If it is, you’ve got to stick to that course and don’t waver off of it, and if it’s not, what part of your game needs addressing and can improve on moving forward? That’s one of the topics that we talked about. If it’s in the right spot, the natural thing [is] tweak this, tweak this. You’ve got to have the conviction to stay the course and do what you do better. If there’s a spot that needs improvement, that’s before practice, that’s the after practice, that’s getting together with a teammate to go through another route or another coverage, so to speak, from a defensive standpoint. I do look for that. I definitely do, to say, ‘Are you going to try to press more?’ Sometimes when you get more pressing, more white knuckled, you can lose performance, and that’s what you really want to avoid to make sure you can stay really consistent.”

On his evaluation of the offensive line:
“I thought from a protection standpoint the guys played well against good rushers. I think they ended up with two sacks. I think one was outside the pocket where Matt [Ryan], if he had another play on a second and one, he’d prefer to throw that one away. From a protection standpoint, I thought that part of the game really came through for the guys against good rushers, good blitz package. I really trust our group. We’ve been good in the run game, and we weren’t in this game in terms of the production that we’d like, but I’ve got a lot of faith in that group. I really do. I thought from a protection standpoint they played well. In the run game, not only did we not get enough runs in the game, [but we] maybe break one or two of those out of there if you get a few more runs, and it looks differently.”

On how penalties can play a factor in a game:
“The other part of that is special teams, so we’ve seen a play that’s a 70-yard penalty on a touchdown return. Those are ones that are really difficult to overcome. It’s the pre-snap ones that we’re in complete control over, a jump offsides, a neutral zone infraction extending a 3rd down. That’s a real penalty, or from a defensive standpoint where the result of the penalty is a first down. Yesterday we had a sack by Adrian Clayborn to knock them back, [but] we had a defensive holding. That’s a big play. It goes from going to be a long distance to convert to a first down. Those are small examples of, ‘Man, really stay consistent in our technique.’ What I shared with the team is consistency is really the key ingredient in being great at anything, and if you can keep doing it over and over and doing it right over and over, it’ll work out. When those little bumps come where it’s not as consistent, with the example of a penalty, that’s where it sets you back. Sometimes offensively we overcame them. Like yesterday we overcame one to score, but on the first drive, [it] might have been the first or second drive, there was a formation foul, an offsides foul, which put us into a third and long where we had to get some yardage just to get into field goal range. That would have been two examples of some penalties that really held us back. They did a good job of getting us back to get points, but not having the big distances to convert definitely makes a difference.”

On defending Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ running backs:
“I haven’t jumped into them enough to know. I do know they’ve got good backs, including him, so I would imagine the scheme would be very similar with him in or without him. As far as him playing, I’ll anticipate he’s playing until I’ve been told otherwise. I’ll go down that road until I hear otherwise, but I would anticipate the scheme being similar. Much like when a new player comes into a position, if it was the same on our team, ‘Okay, it doesn’t all the way change like it might for a quarterback.’ For this player, you want him outside the pocket. This guy is a classic drop-back guy, so we’ll prepare for their offense in general.”

On whether he evaluated Elliott during the draft:
“No, just from the normal evaluation. I think the biggest thing that jumped out to me was the speed, and that’s one of the positions where it can make a real factor for a guy who’s matched up on linebackers or safeties. Much like our guys where you get a running back up to the next level. In the pass game as well, it’s a factor.”

On Matt Bryant’s range being limited:
“After that [field goal] he did, yes. That’s what held us back. When we knew he was limited a little bit, we didn’t want to try to extend him and hit the long one. He was able to do that early, but we weren’t going to be able to do that as the game progressed. That contributed to us going for some of the ones that we did as opposed to, normally if Matt is in range, we give him the green light. We trust him so much.”