Following their fifth-straight loss, the Atlanta Falcons continue to search for the right formula that will lead to the first win of the season.
Despite all of the talk outside of the organization about the coaching staff, the Falcons players continue to place the responsibility on themselves. Atlanta's offense mustered only 16 points in its 23-16 loss to Carolina on Sunday, and the defense had difficulty limiting yards after contact against the Panthers offense.
Following the game, quarterback Matt Ryan addressed the team and pointed the finger at himself for throwing an interception in the end zone when the Falcons were in excellent position to tie the game in the fourth quarter. With a lot of discussion about Dan Quinn's role as head coach, Ryan expressed his belief that it's the players who need to hold up on their end.
"I think as players, we've got to play better," Ryan said. "His messaging has been on point and our play has not. That's what we have to focus on."
Quinn, himself, said after the game that he still believes his message is reaching the players. In the week leading up to Sunday, that message was that the Falcons' frustration must become "determination." Atlanta nearly clawed its way back into the game, but Quinn said he believes his team is still not leaving its mark on games in the way that results in a victory.
Although he believes his message is still being internalized in the locker room, Quinn says that doesn't make the losses any easier to stomach.
"One hundred percent I do, and that doesn't make it easier," Quinn said. "They're upset. They're frustrated, just like we are. And at the end of it we have to make sure -- there's a lot of ingredients right, but we have to make sure, just like I said, as players, coaches, collectively together, we've got to be able to leave our mark on the wins, play calls, big plays, the execution in the moment. When they come up, we have to be able to nail that."
On Sunday, it seemed to be the Panthers who executed in the big moment. A 57-yard touchdown catch by D.J. Moore; a forced fumble by Brian Burns that ultimately ended a Falcons' drive; a 17-yard gain on second-and-19. Carolina made a number of noteworthy plays that helped the Panthers earn the victory.
Ryan wasn't the only leader in the locker room expressing support for Quinn. It's well known how much the players respect their head coach, and that was clear on Sunday.
"I think everyone has Coach Quinn's back," center Alex Mack said. "He's a great coach, he takes care of us. I think each week we show up with the right mindset, and we are ready to play hard. We just need to play better."
If anyone is absolved from personal blame for Sunday's outcome, it's running back Todd Gurley. The Falcons star had his best day since joining Atlanta, carrying the ball 14 times for 121 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Part of the reason he's even in Atlanta to begin with, however, is because of Quinn. Because of that, he's committed to standing by his head coach.
"You know I've got his back," Gurley said. "I was a free agent this year and this guy was one of the only guys to give me a call personally and reach out to me. When everybody thought I'd lost it, he believed in me. I can't do nothing but ride and rock with a guy like that."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers with top photos from inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Week 5.