The Atlanta Falcons fell to 0-3 on Sunday after the Chicago Bears scored 20 points in the fourth quarter of their 30-26 comeback victory.
While many outside of the Falcons' locker room are focused on head coach Dan Quinn, the players are owning up to the role that they have played in the team's inability to close out games in the fourth quarter in back-to-back weeks.
"We know what he means to us," Falcons running back Todd Gurley said of Quinn. "We did not finish for him. We did not finish for each other. We did not finish for the Falcons. We did not finish for the brotherhood. This has nothing to do with him."
Falcons players showed support for Quinn after Sunday's game, expressing belief that he is the right person to help Atlanta find its footing after the 0-3 start. In the week leading up to the game against Chicago, Quinn expressed the need for Atlanta to play complementary football for four full quarters.
As he put it, there could be no more "tale of two halves."
That message appeared to have resonated with the team, as the Falcons raced out to an early 7-0 lead and built that to a 16-10 lead at halftime. Atlanta looked sharp in the third quarter, outscoring Chicago 10-0 and putting itself in position to again close out the game.
In the fourth quarter, though, things flipped for the Falcons. Bears quarterback Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes, and the Falcons couldn't sustain drives offensively to take time off the clock. Atlanta had just one first down in the fourth quarter while protecting its lead.
"We haven't been good enough as an offense the last two weeks, but as players, you go out there and you try and make the call come to life," Quarterback Matt Ryan said. "That's where we've got to put our focus."
The Falcons have, at times, looked like a team that should have two wins through three games in each of their previous two losses, which speaks to the level of talent on the roster and their preparation throughout the week. As Atlanta seeks to solve the problems that have arisen in the fourth quarter, all members of the team are evaluating their roles in making that happen.
Although the players were critical of the part they played in Atlanta's recent losses, Quinn told reporters that it's ultimately his responsibility.
"Well, number one, it falls on me in all spaces," Quinn said. "I want to make sure we're clear on that. But we're all in this together."
Atlanta's turnaround to go 6-2 during the final eight games of the 2019 season was a testament to the players' affinity for their head coach. The Falcons did not fold and tune Quinn out.
Calvin Ridley, who led the Falcons in receiving again on Sunday and entered Week 3 tied for the league lead in receiving yards and boasting the most receiving touchdowns in the NFL, was among the players who defended Quinn after the game.
"It's on us," Ridley said. "He's not playing. It's on us. We've got to win games. We've got to be better as players and get the win, that's all it is."
Ryan shared a similar message.
"You know, we've got his back," Ryan said. "We've got to play better as players, and that's what you have to focus on."
As evidenced by the first half of each of the last two games, the Falcons can move the ball on offense and be effective on defense. This provides Ryan with optimism that things can be corrected moving forward. He said he believes the team is "close" to putting it all together and that Atlanta hasn't been blown out, which is a sign that this team does have what it takes to be competitive this season.
Defensive end Dante Fowler addressed the team in the locker room after the game. He told his teammates that, at 0-3, the Falcons now have their backs against the wall, and they have to keep swinging. It's a message that Quinn agrees with, and he believes the team will respond in the right way.
"Yeah, our backs are to the wall," Quinn said. "We recognize that. So that's fight like crazy together to do that. When you're cornered you fight harder and you dig deeper, and I think that's what this team will do."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears with top photos from inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Week 3.