During the Falcons' bye week, there was plenty of time for reflection.
Chief among those reflecting was interim head coach Raheem Morris, who has taken his job seriously the moment he was appointed it by owner Arthur Blank. In his four games leading the Falcons, Morris has led his team to a 3-1 record with the lone loss coming on the final play of a game Atlanta had all but wrapped up.
Although that has been the story of the team's 2020 season thus far, Morris has largely changed that narrative. In two of his three wins, the defense made plays late in the game to help secure the victory, something that hadn't happened during the first five weeks of the season.
When looking back on Atlanta's first nine games, Morris focused heavily on what the team needs to do when leading football games, something it has the talent to do more often than not.
"When your offense is as talented as the one that we have with Julio and Matt Ryan and Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst and Calvin Ridley and all of the guys playing at a high level like they are, sometimes you're going to get leads in this league," Morris said. "Sometimes you have to figure out how to keep those leads by not getting so confined into a box that you limit yourself. We'd like to come out and be more aggressive, come out in a personnel group that fits us best and do some of the things that we do better."
Atlanta has held second-half leads in six of its nine games this season, but currently has just a 3-6 record. It's not that the Falcons have been out of many contests they've played this year, it's that they have had trouble making sure things end in their favor.
Morris understands that problem well, which is why he's preached the necessity for the Falcons to "force their will" on opponents and make sure that effort is sustained until the final whistle. As a former defensive coordinator, Morris is all too well aware that it's not only upon the offense to keep the game out of reach.
"When you're talking about defense, you just want to talk about how you get better at owning those moments in the two-minute, catch-up type of ball," Morris said. "Those are the moments that have hurt us the most in the beginning half of the season, so those are the moments we want to improve on and get better at and getting after the passer. If we can get those things corrected in those two phases, that's something we'd be really jacked up about."
By "two-minute, catch-up type of ball" it can be surmised that Morris is discussing the moments when opposing teams have the ball when trailing with no more than two minutes remaining in the half. In those situations, the Falcons have struggled this season.
The Cowboys scored 10 points with less than two minutes remaining in their 40-39 victory; Chicago's game-winning touchdown pass came just after the two-minute warning; and the Lions moved the ball 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown in just 64 seconds.
For all of the talk about Atlanta's offensive prowess, Morris is aware that to succeed in the NFL it takes a team. The Falcons have been in most games this season, but they will need to win most games moving forward to have a shot at making anything of this year. It appears that's exactly where Morris's head was during Atlanta's time off.
"You've got to find out what's not up to snuff and you've got to be ready to correct and adjust on every side of the ball and every phase of it," Morris said. "Obviously, we have an offense that's going to go out there and score some points and put us in position to be in leads, so we've got to figure out a way to fill those needs on defense. And when you're on offense, you've got to figure out a better way to maintain those in the second half without not becoming yourself."
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