Falcons Finish Strong:Ever since his arrival, Dan Quinn has preached the importance of finishing—whether it be a tackle, a run up the middle or an entire contest. Although Atlanta hasn't finished particularly well of late, that wasn't the case in Jacksonville: The team's overall effort was about as high as it's been all season, and with the game on the line late in regulation, the defense stepped up and sealed a much-needed victory.
"I just knew it was going to take the whole time in terms of the finish," Quinn said. "Usually there's a time in a game where the finish is at hand, and it wasn't going to be at the start of the third quarter. It was going to be some time in the fourth quarter when the finish came at hand. And today, it ended up being all the way to the end."
Red Zone Offense Improves: The Falcons have had a hard time scoring touchdowns in the red zone, but that was not the case against Jacksonville. Two of Atlanta's trips inside Jacksonville's 20 resulted in seven points—which, of course, made a tremendous difference in the end.
Pass Rush Wreaks Havoc: For the second consecutive week, the Falcons enhanced their pass-rush by recording a pair of timely sacks. Adrian Clayborn, who moved from DT to DE, tallied one; Philip Wheeler got the other and forced a fumble in the process. Clayborn's sack was particularly crucial: With 1:04 left in the fourth and Jacksonville 52 yards from the end zone, the five-year veteran took down Blake Bortles for a seven-yard loss—forcing the Jags into a long third down scenario. Two snaps later, Jacksonville turned the ball over on downs.
"We had to make sure (to get) the quarterback off the spot," said Quinn. "And that was a real factor in this game."
Problems Solved: By converting in the red zone and rushing the passer effectively, the Falcons succeeded in two facets that had been concerning throughout their losing streak. They did a better job in the turnover department, as well, giving the ball up a single time and taking it away once. Regardless of whether or not this team makes the playoffs, it's important to develop in the final portion of the season and shore up areas that have been troublesome.
Ishmael Comes Up Big: That forced turnover proved to be critical for Atlanta: The Falcons went into halftime with a 17-3 lead thanks to Kemal Ishmael, who picked off Blake Bortles in Atlanta's end zone and ran it back 84 yards—the sixth-longest INT return in franchise history. Although he was unable to score, Ishmael, filling in for the injured William Moore, set up Shayne Graham to make a field goal as the clock struck zero. With the Jags poised to cut Atlanta's lead to four, Bortles' crucial mistake led to a 14-point deficit, one they wouldn't overcome.
Atlanta Shines on Third Down: The Falcons have spent a lot of time working on third downs at practice, and that effort certainly paid off versus the Jags. Atlanta converted on seven of 14 third down opportunities; Jacksonville, on the other hand, failed to convert on any of their eight third down tries.
"I really thought third down, that was a huge factor in today's game," said Quinn. "Had a chance to complete some offensively, especially down the stretch, and then stepped up some on defense."
Julio Does It Again: Less than 12 months after setting the Falcons record for most receiving yards in a year, Julio Jones on Sunday broke the franchise mark for most receptions in a season (116), passing teammate Roddy White. If he makes 26 catches in the final two games, Jones will break the NFL record, too, which is currently held by Marvin Harrison (143).