FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A Week 5 bye may seem early for a 17-week regular season, and under normal circumstances it often is, but the rest came at a good time for the Falcons this year.
Not only did it provide some crucial time to recover and get key contributors healthy, but it gave the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate their team at the quarter point of the season. After self-scouting his team over the bye week, Falcons coach Dan Quinn gave his assessment of the team's early performance.
"We think we made strides in the run game," Quinn said Monday. "I think we can continue to make more (strides) in that way. We know it's such an important factor of what we are, so with that part we think we can even get better.
"Third down is one (aspect) that we wanted to improve upon in specific distances to make sure that part is really coming to life. Those were like two things we thought we're doing well and can improve upon."
Atlanta's offense is still among the very best in the NFL. The Falcons (3-1) are fourth in the league with 388.3 yards per game and eighth with 26 points per game. What's even more remarkable, is that they are still a top-10 offense in those categories despite averaging just 62.5 offensive snaps per game, which places them in the bottom half of the league.
Defensively, the Falcons have continued the improvement they showed late last season. Atlanta is allowing 318.3 yards per game, the 10th-fewest, and giving up 22.3 points on average, nearly 10 points fewer than its average through four games last season.
Despite the statistical improvement, there are still some major areas of emphasis that Quinn and his staff want to clean up on defense.
"On the defensive side, we worked hard today on our tackling," Quinn said. "We thought we've had too many leaky yards after some missed tackles or ones where (the runner) was grabbed and the contact kept going. So, we worked hard on that part today. And then creating more opportunities for takeaways."
Mistakes have played a large role in holding the Falcons back at the start of the season. With a minus-4 turnover differential, Atlanta has been among the worst teams in that regard thus far. Quinn says a renewed focus on the team's core principles should make Sunday's more enjoyable for everyone. "When we do the three things together – we talk about those three pillars: the ball, the battle, the brotherhood – not only are we hard to beat, when those things come to life, we're a lot of fun to watch, we're a lot of fun to coach and we're a lot of fun to be around," Quinn said.