In the 48 hours following Atlanta's Week 17 matchup against New Orleans, Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan both said the game was a microcosm of their 2015 campaign. An efficient offensive attack and steady defense kept the Falcons in reach, but a late turnover, one that set New Orleans' up for a last-second field goal, ultimately did them in.
With his first season as head coach in the books, Quinn will spend the next several months figuring out ways to get his team back to playoff contention. Atlanta's giveaway issue, perhaps the biggest reason why it didn't make the playoffs, will certainly be at the front of his mind.
As Quinn noted on Monday, the Falcons were 7-2 this season when plus or even in turnover differential and 1-6 when in the negative. That's no coincidence.
The Falcons wrapped up the 2015 season by packing up their lockers and chatting with teammates before heading out to start the offseason
Given how close they were to a postseason berth, the team is understandably frustrated. Atlanta's offense led the league in time of possession, finished second in third down conversions, and seventh in yards. But they racked up 30 giveaways—eight of which came in the red zone—and, as a result, finished 21st in the NFL in points.
"Well, I think consistency is the key and throughout different times of the year I don't think we were very consistent," Matt Ryan said. "So if we can build that consistency and play the way that we're capable of week in and week out, I think we've proven we can play really good football, but we need to do it more often and every time we show up."
While the uptick in fumbles and interceptions is tough to swallow, it isn't hard to envision the offense getting back on track with a few tweaks here and there. Atlanta was incredibly efficient between the 20s; they were a balanced, too, thanks to the emergence of Devonta Freeman. Add in a pair of reliable tackles, a franchise quarterback and a superstar receiver, and there are a lot of important assets in place.
Now the question is, how can they limit crucial errors?
"No. 1 for us, the philosophy about the ball is where it's going to start," Quinn said of his offseason evaluation. "When you have 30 turnovers, those are drives that aren't ending somehow in points. So I think when you're able to move the ball but the turnovers are a significant factor, those are drives that aren't ending with field goals or a touchdown at the end."