ATLANTA -- If you've been following the Falcons since Dan Quinn's arrival, you've heard the coach say on numerous occasions: The football is everything for the Falcons.
"It's the first thing we hear when we walk into the building into the facility and the last thing we hear before we leave," defensive tackle Jack Crawford said of the emphasis put on the football.
And you saw just why on Saturday night when the Falcons fell to the Arizona Cardinals 24-14 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta's defense forced four fumbles and recovered three – the exact style Quinn wants to see from his defense. Adrian Clayborn, Keanu Neal, Jack Crawford and Jalen Collins all recorded forced fumbles. Duke Riley, C.J. Goodwin and Takkarist McKinley all notched fumble recoveries.
The Falcons' offense wasn't as successful in this regard, giving the ball away twice, losing the turnover battle on the night. One turnover was a Matt Ryan interception on the first offensive series and the second was a Matt Schaub fumble.
Quinn was neither surprised by the defensive performance nor of their penchant for making plays on the ball Saturday night because that's what he saw in practice all week.
"I'd have to say it really did change," Quinn said of the mindset of his team in creating more turnovers. "I thought (in) the first part of training camp the mindfulness to go after it was really strong. And I thought it waned a little bit, and then this week we totally felt it ramp back up. The mindset, the attitude for it, so I'm not surprise that we got so many out today, because of what it looked like at practice."
Linebacker Deion Jones said through the first two preseason games, Atlanta's defense wasn't showing the emphasis needed for the ball.
"That's our style of ball and we haven't been putting it on display – we kind of got away from it," Jones said. "A lot of guys [were] trying to get that feel back of hitting, flying around and playing tough football. We always preach about everything and everything is the ball. Whatever it takes to get the ball out and get the ball into our offenses hands."
Atlanta's second-round pick, Riley, recorded his first fumble recovery as a Falcon thanks to an improved focus on taking more shots at the ball in practice.
"The emphasis is always to get the ball," Riley said. "The first two games we were just trying to make tackles and get the guy on the ground. So [this week] it was just like 'we need to take more shots on the ball and get the guy on the ground at the same time.'"
The simplicity of Quinn's emphasis for the ball sets the tone for guys like Crawford -- one of the players who forced a fumble. It allows him to concentrate on making a play on the ball first, then worry about fine tuning the details after.
"For us it's the ball, the ball, the ball," Crawford said. "That's the attitude we have. When we bring it to life on the field, it's a good feeling."