Raheem Morris, in his role as interim head coach, has wanted to help the Falcons force their will upon opposing teams and "put our foot on people's throat in games."
After the Falcons trounced the Las Vegas Raiders 43-6 – the fourth win in six games for Atlanta under Morris – the team is learning how to fully adopt that approach. This could go down as a what-if season for the Falcons, who have lost three fourth quarter leads this season, including one under Morris, but it's a team that appears to be learning to understand how to win games.
Atlanta dominated the second half against Las Vegas, allowing just a field goal and outscoring its opponent by 24 points after halftime.
"I really kept it from the individual accolades, and I talked about the team win and talked about the guys come out and doing what they're capable of doing and finishing the game like that," Morris said after the win. "I think these guys need a little bit of what you would call a push in the head to let them know this is how a game should end when you got control."
Closing games out is something the Falcons struggled with at the start of the season. Atlanta had a minus-32 point differential in the second half of its first five games this season. Under Morris, that number has dropped to minus-2 in the second half of games – a number skewed by 37 combined points scored in the fourth quarter of wins against the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos.
The Falcons have been able to withstand a negative point differential in the second half thanks to a plus-45 point differential in the first half of games under Morris, which is much higher than the minus-7 point differential in the first half under Quinn.
Atlanta's emphasis on the second half was extremely clear during Sunday's win against the Raiders in all phases of the game. The Falcons scored 14 points in the third quarter, including a 67-yard pick-six on the Raiders' second possession after halftime. In the fourth quarter, Las Vegas gained just 35 yards on offense while Atlanta tacked on another 13 points and effectively salted the game away.
Morris has put an emphasis on the Falcons making big plays late in the game on both sides of the ball to help secure victories. They've been able to do that of late with game-clinching turnovers and drive-extending plays on offense. Both were on display against the Raiders, but it was particularly clear with the defense, which finished with a season-high five turnovers and five sacks – three of each came in the second half on Sunday.
"Every time they had an opportunity to get it, they got the ball out," Morris said. "The hustle, the turn and run, all those things just kicked into play and usually when that happens and technique and opportunity meet, you get the ball."
The improvement Atlanta showed during its win against Las Vegas will truly be put to the test in its upcoming rematch against the New Orleans Saints. In what was their worst game under Morris, the Falcons couldn't do much of anything in the second half. After owning the second half in their win against the Raiders, the Falcons, and Morris, get the chance to show they can turn the corner.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Las Vegas Raiders with top photos from Week 12.