Blake Corrigan – Atlanta, Ga – The Atlanta Falcons head into their bye week sitting on top of the NFC South with a record of 6-4. Their closest competition is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are a game and a half behind. The Falcons, who are coming off of a tough loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, will look to use this week to recharge, refocus, and recover. In his Monday press conference Dan Quinn gave many points of emphasis for the week off which included the team getting and staying healthy, improving on both sides of the ball, and self-scouting. Dan Quinn and the rest of the Falcons’ staff know there is much work to be done if they want to maintain control of their division and make a deep playoff run.
Improving the Defense
One thing that stood out during Quinn’s time with the media was his openness and accountability for the team’s lackluster defensive performance against the Eagles, specifically the run game. The Falcons gave up 200 plus rushing yards, leading Quinn to note “The Run D was the thing that really jacked us up,” saying “we really took a step back in the run game.” Quinn also harped on giving up the “big plays” in terms of the run game. Capitalizing on defensive stops during those plays are going to be a key component to finishing out close games such as Sunday’s when the team’s offense faces a good defensive opponent. This defensive unit that has been somewhat stout over the course of the season, but the staff feels that it is a problem of execution and not personnel. Coach Quinn admitted that there were no new schemes that the Eagles featured, and that his players just didn’t make the plays when they needed to be made. However, Quinn was pleased with the secondary’s play in the absence of star DB Desmond Trufant. The group gave a season best effort in limiting yards after the catch without their best player, which shows promise for the remainder of the season. Another area Quinn spoke highly of was the team’s “ball Hawking” or forcing fumbles. The Falcons lead the league in forced fumbles with 12 so far this season, and are plus 3 in the turnover ratio. During the bye week, watch for the defense to get back to the basics and focus on executing the fundamentals. Nothing flashy, just football.
The Injury Outlook
One of the first things a team does when their schedule is announced is to check the bye week. Players and coaches alike hope it’s towards the middle of the season. If the Falcons plan to make a Super bowl push, then their bye could not have come at a more perfect time. Arriving directly in the middle of a full season, watch for the bye week to give key players on offense and defense such as Tevin Coleman and Desmond Trufant, time to recover. Coleman, who completes the dynamic duo with Devonta Freeman at the running back position, will be practicing as normal and expected to return against the Arizona Cardinals after the bye. Expect to see Desmond Trufant on the same path as he closes in on full strength to be ready for the Cardinals as well. Punter Matt Bosher is also trending towards practicing next week, but Quinn has stated that the team will likely bring in a punter so that Bosher can rest his hamstring.
Another interesting topic Dann Quinn touched on with the media was the process of self-scouting during their bye week. It’s well known that teams scout their opponents to find tendencies and things they do particularly well, or not so well. For the week off however, Quinn plans to apply that process to his own team. The defensive minded coach explained that the process of scouting his own team helps cut down on predictability. Quinn hopes to keep opponents on their toes, especially since 5 of the 6 remaining games are against NFC opponents. Changing the look of the offense and defense is important to make a deep season run and to keep the team’s grip on the NFC South. Dan Quinn exuberated confidence in the squad as a whole, and holds the mindset that the team is in a good spot heading into the bye week.