Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog - our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.
1. Quinn not addressing job situation. Falcons coach Dan Quinn will take a 42-37 career record into the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The Falcons started the season 1-7, but have gone 5-2 since their bye week.
Quinn, who guided the Falcons to the Super Bowl in the 2016 season, signed a three-year contract extension in July 2018. He and general manager Thomas Dimitroff are under contract through the 2022 season.
“I recognize that’s a fair question,” Quinn said when asked about his job security. “Honestly, I just kind of made a pact ... battling straight at it. Anything else, I’d take away from the team.”
Quinn has elected to focus on the team and not his future.
“To me it’s all about the team,” Quinn said. “Anything that I would do would distract from that. From anybody I couldn’t think of a bigger waste of my time other than just trying to get it right. Not, what if I don’t. That’s how I’ve approached it for a while.
“I just try to push that aside and try to hold on to thoughts about us getting better.”
After delivering no-shows for half of the season, the players continue to support Quinn.
“As an athlete, you have to let athletes be them, and he does a tremendous job at doing that; let us be us, being able to come in, come to work and just be you,” running back Devonta Freeman said.
“All he wants us to do is be us and get one percent better, and having a coach like that, we gone go out there and fight for him and do whatever it takes to get wins and keep going.”
Tight end Austin Hooper, who could be headed to free agency, backs Quinn, too.
“He’s a great leader of men,” Hooper said. “When things weren’t going the way we wanted to, he’s the one who corrected the ship and put us in the position where we been in this back half of the year.
“We’ve really been able to see what we can do offensively, defensively and special teams. So all the credit has to go to him. He made all the adjustments and put us in the best position.”
2. Winston a walking turnover chain. If Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston had cut down his turnovers this season, the Bucs likely would be getting ready for the playoffs.
The Bucs (7-8) are 3-5 in one-score games, as Winston’s interceptions continue to plague the team. The Bucs had a chance to beat Houston, but the last-ditch drive ended in another interception. It was Winston’s NFL-leading 28th interception of the season as the Bucs’ four-game winning streak was snapped in the 23-20 loss to the Texans.
“For us, the biggest thing is to quit turning the ball over,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday. “We had a close game last week with five turnovers. Usually, you’ll get the hell beat out of you. We had a chance to win it at the end. If we eliminate the turnovers, we should have had the lead.”
Winston has completed 367 of 602 passes for a league-leading 4,908 yards and a second-best 31 touchdowns, but his passer rating of 84.6 ranks 50th in the NFL. His 28 interceptions thrown are 10 more than anyone else in the league has thrown.
Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich have been more than patient with Winston and his propensity to throw interceptions.
“I continue to work with him,” Arians said. “He just, at times, has to make a little bit better decisions.”
3. Godwin torched the Falcons: The Bucs may be without their top two receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who torched the Falcons for seven catches, 184 yards and two touchdowns in the 35-22 victory Nov. 24.
Evans was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Godwin has a hamstring injury and was inactive last week against the Texans.
“Breshad (Perriman) has really stepped up the last couple of weeks with a couple of 100-yard ballgames,” Arians said. “Then (Justin) Watson has improved a bunch, and he’s doing his thing. We have some other young guys that we are just trying to get in the mix.”
Perriman, once a first-round pick by Baltimore, is from Lithonia.
4. Offensive line on the hot seat. In the previous meeting, the Bucs’ defense front dominated the Falcons’ offensive line. The Bucs had six sacks and 13 quarterback hits.
“We’re doing a great job of stopping the run and getting teams one dimensional,” Arians said. “Then we’re able to pass rush. Getting Jason Pierre-Paul back helped a bunch. Then our secondary is kind of growing up.”
Rookie linebacker Devin White tormented the Falcons. He had eight tackles, two sacks, two tackles for losses and two quarterback hits.
“He had that early knee injury, but right now he’s playing as well as he has all season,” Arians said. “A lot of confidence. He had the touchdown a couple of weeks ago. He picked up another fumble this past week. He’s playing, very, very well.”
Linebacker Shaquil Barrett has 16.5 sacks which is tied for the team’s single-season sack mark, which was set by defensive tackle Warren Sapp in 2000. He had a sack and give quarterback hits against the Falcons.
“We are trying to get that record,” Arians said. “He needs one more to break the record of Warren Sapp.”
In addition to the speed of White and Barrett, the Falcons’ interior lineman have to deal with defensive tackles Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh.
“One of the things that jumps out is there excellent run defense, big and square,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said “They've been able to affect the quarterback.”
5. Rushing attack. The Falcons were held to 57 yards rushing. The Bucs give up 72.9 yards rushing per game, which leads the league.
“You still have to get it run, and you still have to find ways to protect,” Quinn said. “Those to me are at the front of our list as the topics ... the run game, the play pass that goes with it because they’re allowing the fewest in the league in the run game. …What you don’t want to do for a team that knows how to rush and blitz is to let them make you one-dimensional.”
6. David a Pro Bowl snub? Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David has 115 tackles, a sack and seven quarterback hits.
“He’s the leader,” Arians said. “He’s the bona fide leader. I was kind of disappointed that he didn’t make the Pro Bowl because he’s had that kind of season.”
7. Draft watch: The Falcons’ 24-12 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday dropped them from the 12th to the 13th position for the 2020 NFL draft, according to tankathon.com.
The current draft order, with one game to play, starts with the Bengals (1-14) on the clock. They have clinched the first overall pick.
The Bengals would be followed by the Redskins (3-12), Lions (3-11-1), Giants (4-11), Dolphins (4-11), Jaguars (5-10), Chargers (5-10), Panthers (5-10), Cardinals (5-9-1), Jets (6-9), Broncos (6-9) and Browns (6-9).
The Falcons (6-9) will play at the Buccaneers (7-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Bucs defeated the Falcons 35-22 on Nov. 24. The lowest the Falcons could drop with another victory would be 18th.
In the mock draft on Tankathon, they have the Falcons selecting Iowa edge rusher A.J. Epenesa.
9. Depth chart: On Monday, the Falcons released their official depth chart for the Bucs’ game. The winner of this game will get to claim second place in the NFC South.
If the Falcons win, both teams will finish 7-9. The tiebreaker is head-to-head competition, which would be 1-1 and then best record in the division. The Falcons would be 4-2 and the Bucs 2-4.
Here’s the Falcons’ final depth chart of the 2019 season:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 John Wetzel
LG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 73 Matt Gono, 64 Sean Harlow
C 51 Alex Mack
RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 68 Jamon Brown
RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 74 Ty Sambrailo
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Luke Stocker, 87 Jaeden Graham
WR 83 Russell Gage, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 23 Brian Hill, 38 Kenjon Barner, 32 Qadree Ollison
FB 40 Keith Smith
DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 55 Austin Larkin
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford
DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat
DE 93 Allen Bailey, 50 John Cominsky
DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 54 Foyesade Oluokun
LB 45 Deion Jones, 52 Ahmad Thomas
CB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 43 Jamar Taylor
CB 20 Kendall Sheffield, 28 Jordan Miller
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman
S 27 Damontae Kazee, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Jamal Carter
K 7 Younghoe Koo
KO 7 Younghoe Koo
P 9 Ryan Allen
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 9 Ryan Allen
KOR 38 Kenjon Barner
PR 38 Kenjon Barner
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