The gamble by Falcons coach Dan Quinn will be scrutinized league-wide.
On fourth-and-1 at your 45 in modified sudden-death overtime, do you go with analytics or with your gut?
“It was a gut feeling that I went with and it didn’t work,” Quinn said. “We can second guess it. That’s easy to do, but it was more a mindset. I have such belief in the guys to be aggressive and get that half a yard that we needed, so when we didn’t, that was a costly mistake for us.”
Running back Devonta Freeman was stuffed by Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman on the play. The Chargers went on to kick the game-winning field in a 33-30 overtime victory on Sunday at the Georgia Dome
The defense had trouble stopping the Chargers, who were led by quarterback Philip Rivers. He passed for 371 yards and exploited the Falcons’ defense with shallow crossing routes that turned into big gainers.
Quinn wouldn’t say that he was protecting his defense from going back on the field.
“That didn’t factor (at) that particular time,” Quinn said. “It was really just a factor of if we can get it, we can keep driving and get some points at the end of it.”
The Chargers called a timeout and got a look at the Falcons’ personnel grouping. The Falcons didn’t change, but went with a different play.
“I just thought we had a good look, a good run on that one,” Quinn said. “We just didn’t execute it like we can. We had the look there that we wanted. We liked the call. We didn’t execute it and they did.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was stuffed on a third down-and-1. He supported the called to go for it on fourth down.
“Absolutely not,” said Ryan, when asked if he was surprised by Quinn’s decision. “Given that situation, that’s the way Dan is. That’s the way our entire team is. We want to attack and be aggressive. As players, it’s our responsibility to make him right and go out there and make the plays.
“We had two chances on third-and-short and fourth-and-short and we didn’t get it done. From a player’s perspective that was very disappointing.”
Perryman shot through a gap and met Freeman in the backfield on the stretch run to the left side.
“Our linemen have one of the tougher jobs in the NFL,” Freeman said. “One play out of a million good plays that they (execute), I think they did good the whole game.”
Freeman was not surprised by the decision.
“We are always going to say we want to go for it on fourth down,” Freeman said. “Coach Dan is managing the game situations very well. He understands those situations and that situation he wanted us to go for it. We tried to execute.”
Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, who caught nine passes 174 yards, supported the call.
“Those are money situations,” Jones said. “We are going to be aggressive. We are going to stay aggressive.”
Jones doesn’t believe the gamble will have any long-term effects on the team’s psyche.
“It’s all about just staying together and staying positive,” Jones said. “Obviously, this is not what we want at this point during the season. You have ups and downs. We just have to stay together.”