Quinn likes how Falcons are showing incremental improvement

November 21, 2017

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan gives a thumbs-up as he leaves after the team beat the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Seattle. The Falcons won 34-31. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

ATLANTA (AP) — Falcons coach Dan Quinn was stoic on the sideline Monday night until the referees signaled that Seattle’s potential game-tying field goal had fallen short.

Atlanta’s narrow 34-31 victory at Seattle wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy, but the Falcons (6-4) are riding a two-game winning streak as they head into this week’s home game with Tampa Bay (4-6).

After watching the game film Tuesday, Quinn saw exactly how Atlanta’s offense scored three touchdowns and two field goals despite just 89 yards rushing and 195 yards passing. It marked the first time in 64 games that quarterback Matt Ryan didn’t pass for at least 200.

The key was converting nine of 14 first downs and scoring two touchdowns on three trips to the red zone. Those have been troublesome spots this season.

“We didn’t put ourselves in a ton of long yardage, third-down spots,” Quinn said. “I thought that was where Matt had one of his best performances. That’s a big improvement against a team that’s really equipped to rush well and probably the best part of their group now.”

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a touchdown on fourth down and they allowed the Seahawks to march 75 yards in 49 seconds and score a TD that gave them a chance to tie it in the closing seconds.

Atlanta’s kickoff coverage allowed nearly 40 yards per attempt on five returns.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson caused fits all night. He extended plays scrambling and averaged over 12 yards on seven runs and scored a touchdown. He passed for 250-plus yards and two TDs, but Quinn was pleased that the defense held him under 62 percent on 42 passing attempts.

The Falcons were willing to risk Wilson’s ability to break free on the ground as long as they kept him from escaping the pocket and throwing for big gains downfield.

“It’s kind of like you have to play two plays,” cornerback Desmond Trufant said. “You start the first play, then he starts scrambling and the plays are 8, 10, 12 seconds, so it is definitely difficult. The D-line did a good job getting some pressure, getting some sacks, getting the ball out.”

Quinn is still far from satisfied with the lack of takeaways this year. It’s gotten better over the last two games — a total of plus-3 in wins over Seattle and Dallas — but the Falcons rank 20th in the NFL at minus-2 for the season.

Quinn, a former defensive coordinator, was delighted to see Trufant’s interception set up a first-quarter touchdown. Then Takk McKinley stripped the ball loose for Adrian Clayborn to score a TD early in the second.

“I had a sense that this game was going to come down to the ball,” Quinn said. “So for us to be plus two in the turnover margin was a factor.”

But there hasn’t been much else to celebrate. The Falcons rank 27th in takeaways and need to improve that number considerably to get back to the playoffs for a second straight year.

“I think we are moving in the right direction,” Clayborn said. “We keep proving that we can finish games and we can beat guys. We just have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it.”

Notes: RB Devonta Freeman didn’t make the trip so he could spend time resting from concussion symptoms. Quinn said he’d have an update before Wednesday’s practice on Freeman’s status this week. ... CB Brian Poole walked slowly off the field late in the fourth quarter, but Quinn said the team came through the game without any major injuries. “There’ll be some guys limited as we get into practice,” he said, “but as we’re heading into the weekend, we’re excited about where we’re at the guys that we have.”


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