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Falcons Thoughts: Where’s the Run? Using Their Voice for Good, Learning to Finish

Sitting at 1-6 and losers again Sunday at home for the fourth time already this season, the Falcons have a short week as they get set to travel to take on the Panthers in Carolina.

The NFC South matchup should be an interesting one as Carolina comes in after a tough loss to the Saints, as they tried a 65-yard field goal in the final seconds to tie the game up.

Instead, the kick was just short, and the Saints were able to hold on for the 27-24 win.

Here’s a couple thoughts on the Falcons and what lies ahead this week as they get ready for the Cats on the road.

* How About Running the Ball?

Not much has gone right for the Falcons on offense in 2020, but one thing this team has to do better if they are going to have a successful second half is run the ball better.

Sunday against Detroit the team as a whole rushed for 66 yards, with Todd Gurley rushing for 63 of them in the loss.

Gurley only managed 2.7 yards per carry, but if you watched the game the Falcons offensive line wasn’t exactly opening up huge holes for the veteran back.

Then of course there’s the touchdown that many felt he should not have scored, yet another black eye on what’s been a bad season for this team.

* Can the Helmets Make a Difference?

With a lot of emphasis on players around the NFL making a change, the Falcons are doing the same with putting slogans on the back of their helmet for the 2020 season.

The Falcons are one of many teams trying to use their voice for change, and while the season certainly isn’t going the way they planned, it’s a positive that they are using their chance to be an influence in a positive way here in the 2020 season.

* Baby Steps in Learning to Finish

With Raheem Morris taking over as head coach after the dismissal of Dan Quinn, the Falcons thus far are 1-1, but they are still having major issues wrapping up and finishing games they should win.

Case and point Sunday, when they had the lead late against Matt Stafford and the Lions, yet could not figure out how to come up with one big play, and it came back to bite them in the rump in their last second loss.

Finishing might just be the biggest task this team has to get past to have somewhat of a successful rest of 2020.

“We’ve got to be better finishers,” Morris said. “Our rushers got to get home. You’ve got to hit the quarterback in those moments. You’ve got to have the ability to pick up the ball when a guy is scrambling around, throwing it up in the air. We’ve got to find ways to finish the game better.”

Let’s see if that starts Thursday on the road against the Panthers.

Some Reasons To Be Cheerful During The Falcons’ Disappointing Season

Let’s state the obvious: Things haven’t gone to plan for the Atlanta Falcons this season. We know this – everyone knows this – and it’s the reason that Raheem Morris is now at the helm instead of Dan Quinn. Last season’s reversal of form after a 1-7 start might give some fans hope that things can be turned around and at the organization least save some face, but few fans will be holding their breath.

But it’s also not news to people that the Falcons are a better team than the record suggests. But it’s the capitulations in games like the 40-39 defeat to the Cowboys, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, that have led some pundits to muse on why the Falcons seem to hate their fans. That might be a little bit harsh, but you can understand where the sentiment comes from when supporting this most frustrating of teams.

Nevertheless, amid the gloom, we see some shafts of light, and we would like to talk about those below.

A Clean Slate

The departure of Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff came a year too late in the eyes of many fans, many of whom could never shake the belief that Quinn was to blame for the Super Bowl LI collapse. But it’s also apparent that the team’s relationship with Quinn and the coaching staff seemed to have broken down. It’s not clear whether Raheem Morris can solve the many problems he faces, but he can at least get the basics right.  The players are not blameless either, but there are a number of underperformers on the roster who could improve with a new head coach.

A Not-Terrible Offense

While Quinn left a team that ranked 31st in the NFL in defense, the Falcons’ offensive stats were not bad at all, 9th in the NFL, in fact. Look, there was definitely something missing during the games against the Panthers and Packers, but somewhere within that roster there is a team capable of delivering strong offense waiting to come out.

Calvin Ridley

There is a school of thought shared by pundits and some fans that now is the time to trade Julio Jones. He is the kind of player who could be a difference-maker in a team like the Ravens, but sadly not for the Falcons this season. The departure of Jones, which could be used to as part of a new GM’s rebuild, would perhaps be cushioned by the fact that Calvin Ridley is starting to look like one of the best receivers in NFL.

Blown Leads Hint at Potential

To blow a lead, you have to get ahead in the first place, and while neither the Cowboys nor Bears are considered among the NFL’s best, taking 15+ point leads into the fourth quarter against those teams hints at something. Yes, the Falcons have that unwanted record now as being the first team in NFL history to blow 15 point leads in the fourth quarter more than once in a season. But that also suggests some of the Falcons’ problems are fixable.

The Bounce Back Performance vs The Vikings

Baby steps, and all that. But there were many more positives than negatives to take from Morris’ first game in charge – the 40-23 defeat of the Vikings. Again, the Falcons finished weaker in the 4th quarter, and that’s something for Morris to work on. While a lot of the result was down to the profligacy of Vikings’ quarterback, Kirk Cousins, the Falcons were the better team.

Conclusion

We started by stating the obvious, and we will finish by stating the obvious: The Falcons are not a team that is a trade or two away from being contenders. The organization must rebuild, not just in terms of players, but coaching and technical staff. But there is also a platform to build on. Lest we forget, the Falcons threw away games this season against the Bears and Cowboys, so while the team needs surgery, it’s not terminal. Or so we hope.

Falcons Set to Fire Head Coach Dan Quinn After 0-5 Start to 2020

It sounds like the Dan Quinn era in Atlanta is about to come to an end.

Rumors have it the Falcons are set to fire their head coach, and that Jeff Schultz of TheAthletic.com reports that Quinn’s firing has been “all but finalized” to take place in the next 48 hours.

Sunday the Falcons got off to a quick start, but as they have all year they faltered, losing at home to the South divisional rival the Carolina Panthers 23-16.

The Falcons led the game 7-3 after one quarter, but the Panthers piled up 17 points in the second quarter on their way to the seven-point win.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said after the game he’s hopeful that the club would not get rid of Quinn despite the 0-5 start.

“I hope not. I think Dan’s been nothing but a great coach since he’s been here. We haven’t done a good enough job as a team and as players,” Ryan said, via Tenitra Batiste of 92.9 The Game.

The writing for Quinn was likely on the wall when the team blew a 29-10 halftime lead to the Cowboys in the second week of the season.

The club had a couple chances to close out the game including a flat out embarrassing muff of an onside kick, and the team lost on a last play field goal 40-39.

The team since blowing a 28-3 lead against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI have gone 7-9, 7-9, and now they have started 2020 with an 0-5 mark (14-23 overall).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (Hamstring) Questionable for Sunday’s Game

It sounds like the status of leading Falcons wide out Julio Jones is again going to be up in the air for Sunday’s game against the rival Panthers.

The wide out is officially “questionable” for Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury that he reinjured in Monday’s loss to the Packers.

Jones did not participate in practice all week after leaving Monday’s game early. He also missed the week three loss to the Bears with the hamstring issue.

The 31-year-old only was able to play 21 percent of the snaps a week ago, and with the Falcons at 0-4 it would be great to get him back, but it sounds like with no practice time this week it’s likely he’ll be watching from the sidelines.

Falcons Safety Damontae Kazee Tears Achilles, to Miss Rest of Season

The Falcons will be minus safety Damontae Kazee for the rest of 2020, as the team announced that a torn Achilles will sideline him.

Kazee suffered the injury in the second quarter of Monday’s loss to the Packers in Green Bay.

He was carted off the field. He fell to the ground, grabbing the back of his left leg, and was in obvious pain while being checked by the training staff.

Sharrod Neasman filled in for Kazee, but it remains to be seen if he will continue to be the starting safety or if the team will open up the position.

The Falcons were banged up at the safety spot entering Monday’s game, as the club was missing safeties Keanu Neal, who was sidelined by a hamstring injury and Ricardo Allen out with a hyperextended elbow.

Kazee tied Kyle Fuller and Xavien Howard for the league lead with seven interceptions in 2018, and has played in 52 career games.

Falcons Place Starting CB Darqueze Dennard on IR with Hamstring Injury

The Falcons are placing starting cornerback Darqueze Dennard on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury.

The veteran corner was a standout in Atlanta’s Week 3 loss to Chicago. He recorded six tackles, two pass defenses and one interception, which came on a contested catch against Allen Robinson in the end zone. Dennard was Pro Football Focus’s highest-graded Falcons defender against the Bears, earning a near-elite grade of 82.7. He sustained the injury late in the game and was forced to leave the action.

In addition to placing Dennard on IR, the Falcons signed defensive end Austin Edwards to the practice squad and released cornerback DJ White and linebacker Deone Bucannon.

Falcons Wide Out Julio Jones Misses Practice with Hamstring Issue

The Falcons are in desperate need of a win after two bad weeks on the field to start 2020, but may have to play week three minus one of their top playmakers.

Wide receiver Julio Jones was a non-participant in Thursday’s practice, as he continues to deal with an issue with his hamstring.

In the first two games of 2020 Jones has 11 catches for 181 yards and has yet to score.

If Jones can’t go Sunday against the Bears, expect to see more balls go to wide outs Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage.

Quinn Says No Changes Coming for the Coaches on the Falcons Defense

Falcons coach Dan Quinn, in the wake of the historic collapse and 40-39 loss to Dallas on Sunday, doesn’t plan to make any changes to the defense side in terms of play-calling or in-game decisions, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“No,” Quinn said. “No changes. I’m involved in all of the defensive calls and all of the preparation as well.”

The Falcons (0-2) are set to play the Chicago Bears (2-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons blew a 20-0 lead against the Cowboys. They also were ahead 29-10 at halftime and by 15 points with 4:45 to play. The defense gave up 30 points in the second half and couldn’t slow the Cowboys enough to hold onto victory.

The Falcons are off to horrendous start on defense after giving up 570 total yards and 33 first downs to Dallas. The defense is ranked last (32nd of 32) in points allowed (39.5 per game), 31st in yards allowed (476.5) and 31st in passing yards (372 yards).

“Well, I didn’t say it’s going to remain as it is from our performance, but in terms of the process that we go through I have a lot of confidence in the staff,” Quinn said. “I have a lot of confidence in the players that we will get the performances that we are looking for.”

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