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Raheem Morris explains why Falcons came up short vs. Seahawks, the challenge Cowboys pose

Falcons defensive coordinator says Russell Wilson 'absolutely came out that day and beat us'


There's no need to regurgitate one more time what happened Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. We all saw it and watched as Russell Wilson completed pass after pass during the Seattle Seahawks' 35-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

While every loss is disappointing, watching Wilson pick apart the Falcons secondary and completing 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns after Atlanta spent an entire offseason trying to shore up its defense was perhaps a bit unsettling for Falcons fans.

The Falcons ranked 19th in turnover differential, 22nd passing defense, 22nd scoring defense and were 29th in sacks in 2019 and one of the most important priorities heading into the offseason was to upgrade the defense.

On Wednesday, Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris met with the media and explained what worked and what went wrong on defense against the Seahawks.

As for the good, Morris singled out the Falcons defensive line and the fact that Takk McKinley and Grady Jarrett notched a couple of sacks. Dante Fowler was credited with a half sack with Jarrett.

"We played really well up front," Morris said. "We were able to physically affect the quarterback; hitting him a bunch of times, getting a couple of sacks."

When it came to the not-so-good parts of the game on defense, Morris singled out himself.

"What I did not do – solely on me – I didn't give the guys the ability to affect the quarterback mentally," he said. "Some of our disguises wasn't what it used to be, what it needs to be in order to win a game like that. I didn't give those guys enough credit to beat us in the passing game, and they absolutely did. Russell Wilson is a heck of a player, phenomenal guy, phenomenal player. And he absolutely came out that day and beat us."

How efficient was Wilson? If you don't count his pass attempts to D.K. Metcalf, he was 27 of 27 for 227 yards and three touchdowns to everyone else wearing blue and green.

While the Falcons defense struggled against the Seahawks passing game, they played well in other areas. Aside from sacking Wilson three times, Atlanta managed to keep Seattle's ground game in check for the most part. Excluding Wilson's three scrambles for 29 yards (and 28 of those came on one run), the Seahawks ran the ball 17 times for 55 yards and one score.

Atlanta, in fact, outgained Seattle in total yards, 506 to 383.

Outside of Wilson's dominant day, what ultimately did the Falcons in were costly mistakes on fourth down. Atlanta failed to convert any of its four fourth-down attempts, and those misses turned into 24 points for the Seahawks.

"Some are execution ones, some to say, 'Hey, you'd like to have a different call in those spaces.'" Falcons coach Dan Quinn said after the game. "But, against a good quarterback, you want to be bold, you want to stay aggressive."

Quinn reshuffled his coaching staff last November following a 1-7 start, with Morris taking over the defensive play-calling with linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich. The Falcons finished 6-2 down the stretch. Morris was a big reason why the Falcons turned things around, and the Falcons named him the defensive coordinator heading into the offseason.

"I've been impressed with Raheem in his on-field coaching day-in and day-out," Falcons president Rich McKay said. "I don't even know what the phrase 'players coach' means. The nice thing about him is, if there is one, he is one. And the reason is because he's a communicator. He's out at practice every day communicating with all those players, rookies and veterans. And he's communicating in his own way to them. In other words, it's unique to them."

With the Dallas Cowboys on deck for Week 2, Morris and his defense will look to regroup against another team that also took its lumps in Week 1. Dallas fell to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night, 20-17.

"You know, when you talk about Dallas, you're talking about some guys who have some real talent," Morris said. "On the outside, both at running back, both outside at the wide receiver standpoint; they can get the ball anywhere. Their quarterback is a very good player. He's able to do some of the same things that these guys did to us last week if you allow them to. And he can absolutely beat you with his arm; he's a good football player as well.

"When Zeke (Elliott) gets the ball in space, he's a problem. When all these receivers get the ball in space, they're a problem. So, you've got to limit space, get some tackles, get some population to the ball, and run there as hard as you can …"

The Falcons have beaten the Cowboys in three of their last four matchups but fell 22-19 in their last meeting back in 2018. The last time the Falcons traveled to Arlington, they beat the Cowboys 39-28 back in 2015.

While both teams are looking to even their record 1-1, neither the Falcons nor the Cowboys want to start the year off with an 0-2 mark. Why? Historically speaking, things don't go well for NFL teams after losing their first two games. According to Mark Schofield of USA TODAY, 107 teams have started 0-2 since 2007 and only 11.2 percent of those teams turned things around to make the playoffs. That's why some are calling Sunday's game an elimination game.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday was the first time in NFL history a team had three players with nine catches and 100 yards in the same game. Julio Jones - 157 yards. Calvin Ridley - 130 yards. Russell Gage - 114 yards. Each had nine catches.

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