Early Bird Report: Falcons, Quinn working to fix defensive problems


The Falcons sit at 1-5 heading into their game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Nobody in the organization is happy about Atlanta's record through the first six weeks, and the Falcons are working hard to get things back on track.


That work begins at the top with head coach Dan Quinn, who is still looking for a complete performance in all three phases from his team. Despite the recent struggles, the players and coaches remain firmly committed to the approach that Quinn has in place.

"His message is always different, but it's fresh and it hits home to where we're at as a team," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said of Quinn. "He's done that the entire time that I've been with him and he's been here. He's been great. He is day-in and day-out, high energy, focused on the opponent and what we need to do that week to get a win. I think the guys really appreciate that from him."

Atlanta's offense has topped over 30 points in the team's last two games, but the defense has had difficulty containing opponents. If the Falcons are going to string together back-to-back wins before their Week 9 bye, that will have to change.

D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote more about the Falcons' approach at 1-5 for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which you can read here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

AJC: Falcons defenders looking for answers

In the midst of their four-game losing skid, the Falcons' defense is searching for a way to get things tightened up. Atlanta is giving up 31 points per game this season, the second-most in the league, and they have allowed 388.8 yards per game. The AJC's Matt Winkeljohn caught up with some Falcons defenders this week to talk about how they can improve moving forward.

"Everybody has to do their job, do their part and contribute the best way they can," defensive captain Ricardo Allen told Winkeljohn. "You have to stick in your spot. You don't want to be the one to try and go make plays when you're doing too much. It's a tough situation to be in, but it's one that we feel we can fight through."

To read the rest of Winkeljohn's story, click here.

ESPN: Falcons must find ways to generate pressure

Through the first six games this season the Falcons haven't been able to generate the type of pass rush they are looking for. Atlanta is tied with Miami for the least amount of sacks in the NFL thus far with five, and the Falcons have not recorded a sack in three straight games.

ESPN's Vaughn McClure wrote about the Falcons' low sack numbers in a recent piece, and he included a bit of information that shows Atlanta is getting into opposing backfield but is unable to close the deal. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Falcons have a pass rush win rate of 54.2 percent, which is fifth-best in the league.

"I think we're trying," Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley told McClure. "We've got to just keep going. Against the Rams, we can't just go out there and lay an egg. We still have a chance. As long as you've got a chance, you've got to keep fighting."

To read the rest of McClure's piece about the Falcons' pass rush, click here.

AJC: Falcons looking to cut down explosive plays

There have been a number of problems that have plagued the Falcons' defense through the first six games of the 2019 season. One of the biggest issues the team has faced is an inability to stop opposing offenses from hitting explosive plays.

As Atlanta seeks to turn things around quickly, it is focused on limiting those chunk plays and forcing teams to meticulously drive their way down the field.

"For sure, the explosive plays are the things 100 percent jamming us up," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Monday. "As I was referring to, you do it well 8-of-10 times, and if you don't have it nailed the whole time, that's where it gets difficult.

"A contested catch if they earn them, whether it is in man-to-man or zone, you definitely can live with those. Not the ones that are self-inflicted. That's part of the things we've been talking about. I thought the tackling was better. But at the end of the day, not having the explosive plays, where obviously the scoring goes way up when you have an explosive."

D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote more about the Falcons seeking to limit the explosive plays in a piece for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which you can read here.

ESPN: Bryant missed XP is Falcons' season in nutshell

The Falcons dropped another game in heartbreaking fashion, losing to the Arizona Cardinals 34-33 on Sunday. Atlanta's loss drops it to 1-5, and the road ahead doesn't get much easier with the Rams and Seahawks coming to town before the bye week.

Although the final result is ultimately all that matters, there were at least some positive trends that emerged. Not only did Austin Hooper continue to emerge as one of the league's best tight ends this season but running back Devonta Freeman had his most productive game of the year.

Freeman carried the ball 19 times for 88 yards, and he caught three passes for 30 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Sunday. ESPN's Vaughn McClure wrote about Atlanta's loss after the game, and he included a bit about Freeman's excellent afternoon.

"You have to buy Freeman having a big game with 19 carries for 88 yards on the ground and two touchdown receptions," McClure writes. "Freeman had 22 touches after offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter promised to get him more involved. Freeman made some nice cuts and showed his great vision. It's too bad the season might not be salvageable even if he gets his groove back."

To read the rest of McClure's piece on the game, click here.

AJC: Falcons go to desert and find new way to lose

This season has tested the Falcons' resolve more than perhaps any in recent memory. Each week a new issue seems to creep to the forefront, and although Atlanta has enough talent to look formidable in stretches, the outcomes speak for themselves. On a weekend when the Georgia sports curse reared its ugly head, the Falcons were not immune.

"The Falcons have tried everything to break the cycle of losing. And now, even a week in the desert seemed to do them little good," Steve Hummer wrote for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"This is a restorative place, they say. But nothing — not the dry climate, not the drastic change of scenery, not even the kind of bonding that men can only do in the comfort of the concierge lounge — could fix one chronically blighted team and its suspect defense."

To read the rest of Hummer's piece, click here.

NFL.com: What we learned from Sunday's games

As has been the case in a few of the Falcons' five losses this season, Atlanta's offense proved worthy of recognition. Matt Ryan was simply lights out against the Cardinals, throwing just six incompletions and passing for 356 yards and four touchdowns. The Falcons' run game got back on track and the offense did enough to rally back from a big first-half deficit. NFL.com's Michael Baca wrote about Sunday's game, mentioning both offenses enjoyed stellar afternoons.

"On the other hand, the Cardinals defense wasn't exactly stellar and they competed with the Falcons for Rosenthal's bottom spot. Atlanta (1-5) bested the Cardinals in virtually every offensive stat aside from the score (total yards, first downs, red-zone appearances, time of possession)," Baca writes. "Matt Ryan threw for 356 yards (30-for-36) and four touchdowns, while TE Austin Hooper (117 yards), who caught one of those TDs, and Julio Jones (108) led Falcons receivers with eight catches apiece. In a losing effort, all the offensive success may seem like a waste for the Falcons, but if there was anything to look forward to in Atlanta, it was the play of RB Devonta Freeman. Coming off an injury-laden season a year ago, Freeman returned to form. He match his season-high total for rushing with 88 yards on 19 attempts and caught two TD passes out of the backfield for his first multi-TD game since Week 2 of the 2017 season. But this wasn't a measure based solely off his numbers. Freeman ran with serious intent and wasn't afraid to stick his foot in the ground and lower his shoulder for the extra yards. It may have been a forgetful day for Falcons fans, but certainly they were happy to see the Freeman they've known and loved."

To read the rest of Baca's review of Sunday's game, click here.

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