FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – After falling to the New England Patriots on "Sunday Night Football," the Falcons held their own "state of the union" type of meeting to discuss where they are right now as a team.
The outcome of that meeting?
"It's not where we expected to be, and it's not where we want to be," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "But that's where we are. Own that, and how do we go about improving."
The team is right in the middle of a three-game road swing and has yet to play a division game.
Next up, the Falcons face yet another AFC East team, the New York Jets (3-4).
So what did we learn about the Falcons after their Week 7 performance and what can we expect moving forward?
Third down, red-zone play tops Falcons' 'must improve' list
If there's one thing Quinn made abundantly clear above all is that his team needs to play better on third down and in the red zone. Against the Patriots on Sunday night, the Falcons were 2-of-9 on third down and 1-of-4 in the red zone, offensively. New England was 7-of-13 on third down and went 2-of-5 in the red zone.
Quinn said that in order for the Falcons to be at their best, these two areas must improve as they are stats that directly correlate with their overall record (3-3). The Falcons rank 18th in the league in red zone scoring percentage, scoring touchdowns on 52.6 percent of their trips to the red area. Defensively, the Falcons rank No. 14 in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 52.6 percent of trips to the red zone.
Atlanta ranks No. 11 in the league on third down offensively and No. 20 defensively. Quinn said in hopes to improve both of these areas, the team will add more practice periods focused solely on red zone and third down.
"We're in the middle of the road on some of these categories that we expect to be better at, and our record is right at the middle of the road," Quinn said. "I told them that's usually what you get when the red zone and third down is right there in the middle. Now we need to improve upon that."
Run defense still not up Falcons' standard
After Atlanta's loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 6, Quinn said his team's performance against the run was not where he'd like it to be. The trend continued on Sunday as New England ran 36 run plays against the Falcons for a total of 161 yards.
Quinn has referenced gap control as the issue that's allowed some of the bigger runs to happen over the past two weeks.
"Like a lot of runs that happen, somebody is in the wrong spot, in the wrong gap," Quinn said. "That's usually what takes place when a run gets manufactured, especially an explosive one. We're more of an eight-man front team. When you get out of the gap, there are going to be consequences to that.
"At the end, no, I'm not happy with the result of the numbers of rushes and the yards, but the tackling was improved."
Targets for Jones increase
There's been a concerted effort on all ends to get Julio Jones the ball more. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Quinn have both talked about it – and they did just that on Sunday.
Jones caught nine passes for 99 yards and one touchdown on 13 targets – the most he's been targeted all season.
A closer look at Jones' targets:
• Week 1: 5
• Week 2: 9
• Week 3: 12
• Week 4: 9
• Week 6: 13
Creating turnovers still a major point of emphasis
Winning the turnover margin is one of the most important statistics to Quinn. His defense is predicated on being a run-and-hit unit that creates turnovers and so far, they haven't created enough.
The Falcons are minus-four in the turnover margin, which is 26th in the league.
Atlanta's defense did force one turnover on Sunday night – an interception by Robert Alford—that was negated by a roughing the passer penalty on Adrian Clayborn that ultimately led to a Patriots' touchdown.
"Defensively, not to have the number of takeaways," Quinn said. "So far, we're a run and hit defense that creates turnovers. For us not to do that and give more possessions to the offense has been frustrating."