EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Falcons head coach Dan Quinn went into Friday night's preseason opener against the New York Jets hoping to get some quality evaluations on many of his younger players.
At his post-game press conference, Quinn said he wasn't able to do that to the extent that he would have liked. The 10 penalties the Falcons accrued against the Jets certainly didn't help matters.
"I was so looking forward to this game," Quinn said after the loss. "A big evaluation opportunity on a number of guys at a number of different spots, and I thought we missed our mark in some instances… I thought the penalties in this game cost us where it created some difficult field positions to convert so that maybe we didn't get the looks that we wanted to. That part of our game we certainly need to clean up."
The Falcons' 10 penalties cost them a total of 71 yards in their first exhibition game. Seven of those penalties came on offense with six of them occurring on two specific drives.
The first two penalties of the game happened on the Falcons' opening offensive possession, putting them in a second-and-20 situation before the starters had begun to find a rhythm.
"Defensively, if I remember correctly, I think that group started out well," Quinn said. "I think they had a three-and-out to get going. And just the opposite on the other side where some of the fouls – we had an illegal procedure one, a block in the back – just really set us back to try and get going."
Four penalties occurred on the first drive of the second half, the Falcons' most promising to that point in the game. Atlanta faced a second-and-10 at the Jets' 37-yard line early in the third quarter before back-to-back penalties left the Falcons facing second-and-25 at their own 48-yard line.
Every time it seemed as though the Falcons had begun to build some offensive momentum a yellow flag could be found on the field.
The lone offensive penalty that came outside of those two possessions for the Falcons was of a new variety. Rookie running back Ito Smith was flagged for initiating a block with his helmet, a new rule the NFL incorporated this offseason.
That same penalty was later called on Falcons safety Damontae Kazee, who, with 11 tackles, nine of which were solo, was one of the true bright spots for Atlanta on Friday.
"The first two that I saw (one on the Jets, one on the Falcons) I had a good look at, and I thought they were the correct call," Quinn said of the leading-with-the-helmet penalties. "I didn't see Kazee's second one to know, so I'm anxious to go back and look at those. It's an emphasis, and I was disappointed to see our team, that we take such pride in that, to have those fouls."
Penalties weren't the only area in which the Falcons will look to improve. Offensively, the Falcons gained 49 yards on 22 carries against the Jets and couldn't maintain a consistent threat on the ground.
The biggest takeaways from preseason games aren't in the box score but rather in the film room, where coaches can educate and strive to prevent their players from making repeat mistakes. In that context, the Falcons' loss isn't too worrying, but it gives Quinn a good idea of where to start improving his team.
"We've got a lot to work on," Quinn said. "I'm encouraged by their youth and speed and everything, but I don't think we played as well as can. That's to be expected sometimes in your first game. More than that, I don't like the sloppiness, I don't like the penalties. We could be better at the ball and going after it. Those were two of the things at the top of the list going into the game where I thought we missed our mark."