FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Falcons coach Dan Quinn addressed several topics during his Monday press conference, the most notable of which is the status of a few injured players.
Starting cornerbacks Brian Poole and Desmond Trufant left Sunday's game, with a lower back injury and a concussion, respectively, while starting running back Devonta Freeman has missed the previous two games with a concussion of his own. Quinn explained the status of those players during his press conference, saying the team would continue to monitor their progress throughout the week.
"As you know, we had two corners go down with Poole and Tru," Quinn said. "During the game, I thought there was a lot of resiliency showed by the DBs in answering when they had to, specifically Ricardo Allen playing a new spot.
"Trufant was in the concussion protocol yesterday. That's the same as we're heading into practice this week, with he and Freeman. And Poole had a back [injury] and hopefully he'll make good progress this week, we'll just take it day-by-day with him as far as his preparation goes."
Here are some of the other topics of interest that Quinn discussed in his Monday press conference.
Sanu's touchdown pass to Julio
A 51-yard pass from Mohamed Sanu to Julio Jones out of the "12-gauge" package helped jump-start the Falcons' offense on Sunday and provided one of the NFL's top highlights from Week 12. When asked which of the plays Jones made against the Buccaneers was his favorite, it was the 51-yard receiver-to-receiver touchdown that he mentioned.
"I'd have to say the touchdown one from Mo to him was my favorite one," Quinn said of his favorite play Jones made on Sunday. "Because it was so unique, and the celebration part of it at the end I thought took a lot of creativity on their part. I still don't know where it comes from; I'm glad I never know any of [the celebrations] so I get to see them for the first time as well."
Of course, the play didn't begin so smoothly. Prior to throwing the ball downfield, Sanu bobbled the fake handoff, causing the ball to pop up into the air for a brief second.
"Yes, very much so," Quinn laughed when asked if he was nervous about Sanu's bobbled exchange. "It had been a play that, sometimes you have two plays where you can take your shot on third down if you're going to go for it on fourth down. We have a lot of confidence in him throwing it. Like, he's got a really strong arm. We've done that a number of times, probably for a year-and-a-half at least. He's constantly tapping you to say, 'I can throw it.' On that look, he knew Julio was going to have a chance to go get it. But yeah, once it went up on the option part of it, it was concerning. But once he threw it, if you watch the replay of it, he kind of backpedals out and he knew it was going to go down."
Julio impactful on and off the field
That play was just one of many highlights on the afternoon for Jones, who finished with a whopping 253 yards and two touchdowns. Quinn didn't pick a particular play when asked what impressed him most about his All-Pro receiver, though, he explained how Jones operates when the spotlight is gone.
"The things that you don't know, that are behind the scenes, and as good a player he is … it's the way he leads behind the scenes as a teammate," Quinn said of what impresses him about Jones. "Those are the things that don't show up on the stat sheet, but for him, as impactful as he is during the game, he's just as impactful during the week."
Improvements on third-down and red-zone situations
Atlanta failed to convert just three of their 14 third-down opportunities against Tampa Bay, succeeding on 79 percent of such situations. In the red zone, the Falcons came away with a touchdown on two of their three trips; the lone misstep being a fumble by Terron Ward as he neared the goal line for a score.
"We really thought that third downs were such a big part of that [offensive success] in this game," Quinn said. "It allowed some drives to continue and, for us, we were 11-of-14 on third down and two or three of those were in the red zone. Having the ability to convert down there, we love when Matt [Bryant] kicks it, but we'd prefer if we kept moving the ball down the field. That was a real factor for us."
Seemingly every offensive player was involved on a third down at some point in the game, and it's that ability to spread the ball around and get multiple people involved that makes the Falcons such a difficult team to defend when everything is clicking.
"A number of those were third-and-1s, and it was good to see those conversions take play," Quinn said. "When you get different guys involved, and there's different things that we do offensively, it adds to their plate, defensively. The different things you have to defend – the reverse now with Julio, the screen plays, the runs to Terron [Ward] or Tev in certain directions. … That's when we're at our best. A number of people can get involved, and when your time to step up is there, you answer. Certainly, that was the case yesterday."
The coaching staff deserves credit for addressing those two specific areas earlier in the season and tweaking their practice plan to help correct their struggles in critical situations.
"Third down and red zone were the areas that when we went in to evaluate and say 'OK, this part of the game is not up to the standard,'" Quinn said. "That's why about four weeks ago we added plays into our practices. And those plays we wanted to add were red zone and third down. We do that against one another every Wednesday and every Thursday to add that kind of work into it. Over the last few weeks, that part has certainly had an uptick in production, but by no means do we feel that we've peaked in those areas. We feel like we can still have plenty of room to get going."
Expect 'a good fight' from the Vikings
The upcoming matchup between the Falcons and the Vikings (9-2) figures to be one of the best in Week 13. Both teams are primary playoff contenders, and they are playing some of their best football at this point in the season. When looking ahead to the game, Quinn said he expects it to be a competitive one.
"A lot of the spots in this game where they're strong, we're strong," Quinn said. "Their defense against our offense in some spots, our offense and their defense. It's a cool matchup, because a lot of the strengths [match up with] strengths. So that'll be a good fight. "When you watch good defensive play, they make adjustments in games; they're able to make sure a certain player doesn't get after you in certain ways. You have your game plan heading into the game and then as it's going, how do you adjust, how do you make your changes and how do you feature the guys in the right way based on what the other team's game plan is? I think it'll be a hell of a matchup, I really do."