Our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.
1. Pump the brakes: In 1995 the state of the football operation in Cleveland was in turmoil.
The Browns and coach Bill Belichick were coming off an 11-5 campaign and had beaten the Patriots in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs before losing to the Steelers in the divisional round.
Some were projecting the Browns as Super Bowl contenders for the 1995 season, but the team went 6-10, losing six of seven games after owner Art Modell’s secret deal to move the team to Baltimore became public.
Belichick was assured he’d keep his job after going 37-45 over five seasons by Modell.
Belichick was 39 when Ernie Accorsi hired him in 1991.
But in February 1996, new Baltimore owner Modell fired Belichick, in part because he thought his dour personality and poor media relations wouldn’t help him sell tickets and suites.
Accorsi pointed out that Chuck Noll didn’t have a great personality, but the Steelers sold tickets because they won football games.
Fast forward to 2019, the Falcons find themselves in a similar situation.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn has had a nice run here over five seasons. Better than Belichick’s run in Cleveland, where he clearly learned from some mistakes, which included dumping local legend Bernie Kosar.
Quinn, who turned 49 in September, has a Super Bowl trip, two trips to the playoffs and a 37-34 record.
Quinn was hailed as a defensive genius when he was hired based on his work with the Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense. Some will contend that he took over what Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley started.
While things have not gone according to plan this season, Quinn didn’t all of a sudden forget how to coach.
Julio Jones reportedly said that this mess was on the players and not the coaches after the 37-10 loss to the Rams.
No one is calling Quinn the next Belichick, but you can bet Modell and Baltimore fans would like to be on the incredible run that Patriots have been on since 2000.
So before everyone runs Quinn out of town, let’s get some answers on how this season really fell apart and be sure the franchise isn’t set back by making a poor decision not based on the best way to win football games moving forward.
2. Next opponent: Quarterback Russell Wilson will lead the Seattle Seahawks (5-2) against the struggling Falcons (1-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Seahawks are coming off a 30-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and are trying to catch the streaking San Francisco 49ers (6-0) in the NFC West.
Wilson has been dynamic this season as he’s completed 157 of 230 passes (68.5%) for 1,945 yards with 15 touchdowns passes to one interception. Wilson has a passer rating of 114.1.
“As far as Seattle goes, looking into them and where they’re at, I think it always starts with Russell on the offensive side,” Quinn said. “He’s done a fantastic job of taking care of the ball this year, even stronger than most years. He’s got a mindset to do that anyway.”
Wilson has been at his best when looking to throw while scrambling around the pocket.
“I think his ability to improvise plays on the run is really strong, and their offense has a very good awareness of how to do that,” Quinn said. “It's not just the quarterback getting outside the pocket. There are other people that have to be coordinating that as well.”
3. Sackless in Seattle: Like the Falcons, the Seahawks, despite adding Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah, are struggling to rush the passer.
Seattle has just 11 sacks, which ranks 26th in the NFL. The Seahawks had one sack against the Ravens in their last outing.
“That (sack) number isn’t going in the right direction,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said while talking to the Seattle media Monday. “But the passing game — there were two plays in the passing game, and the rest of it was really well done by our guys making plays. We pressured a number of times and got good disruption out of it.
Carroll talks about chasing the quarterback and getting him off his spot.
“We found our way into chasing the quarterback when we pressured — we got him out of the pocket, knocked him off the spot, but that wasn’t the best thing that could happen,” Carroll said. “But you needed to do it, you’ve got to go after him and change the rhythm.”
While the Seahawks have not been getting sacks, their opponents have not been mauling their pass defense. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was 9-of-20 for 143 yards and had a passer rating of 69.4. In their previous game, they intercepted Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield four times.
“We’d love to get more sacks,” Carroll said. “We’d love to have more hits on the quarterbacks, because that gives us the ball for the most part, but we’re just going to keep battling away.”
4. Series history: The Seahawks lead the regular season series 10-6. The Falcons are 2-0 in playoff matchups.
5. Secondary time-shares: Falcons cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson and safety Jamaal Carter moved into time-share situations in the secondary against the Rams.
Wreh-Wilson shared time with Isaiah Oliver at right cornerback and Carter shared time with Kemal Ishmael at strong safety.
Wreh-Wilson played 34 of the 76 defensive snaps (45%). Oliver played 45 snaps (59%).
Carter played 38 snaps (50%) and Ishmael played 38 snaps (50%).
Wreh-Wilson finished second on the team with eight tackles. Oliver had four tackles.
Ishmael had seven tackles and Carter had two tackles and one pass breakup.
“It felt good,” Wreh-Wilson said. “It wasn’t the result we wanted. But there were some things that we did and we look at and can try to build on as we try to get this thing going in the right direction.”
Wreh-Wilson, who’s recovered from a groin injury, was happy to get some action.
“I’m just trying to help the team,” Wreh-Wilson said. “It’s good to know that they have that trust in me and that I’m held accountable. I may not get the reps during the week, but they know on Sunday’s they can put me out there and I can get the job done.”
Quinn seemed to be pleased with the situation.
“We were going into the game, thinking maybe it would be close to a 50-50 split, and I was pleased to see Blidi come back in and play well,” Quinn said. “Then with Carter, it was kind of the same program with (Ishmael] of how we would use two people to play the strong safety position, some in the base package and some in the nickel package.”
6. The trade: New England had been after Mohamed Sanu for the past two months. The team originally offered a fourth-round pick and then a third-round pick and finally a second-round selection.
Quinn will address the trade today.
7. Beasley has no trade value: The Falcons listened to offers for defensive end Vic Beasley last season before the trading deadline and are reportedly shopping him.
The trade deadline is 4 p.m. Tuesday.
According to one AFC executive, there is no market for Beasley.
“He’s a speed rusher with no power,” the exec told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Everybody thought they over-drafted him. There are questions about if he loves football.”
If a team wants to kick the tires on Beasley, they can wait until after the season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
“They are just stuck on that one,” the executive said. “He had some success (15.5 sacks in 2016) and then nothing.”
Teams figured out his moves, and his inability to develop a counter move is why he’s had trouble getting to the quarterback.
Quinn wanted to work with Beasley this past offseason to develop some counter moves, but Beasley elected to stay away from the offseason program and worked out on his own.
Former defensive line coach Bryant Young laid out the Beasley conundrum last November in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“A guy like him, a 4.5 (40-yard dash) guy who can really get off the spot and speed around the edge, it would be great to have something that’s a change-up,” said Young, who left the team for family reasons after last season. “That’s been his go-to, his off the edge speed and winning off the corner. That always keeps people honest when you can change it up a little bit.”
Beasley, who was selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, is not sure if he needs or would welcome a fresh start.
"I feel like we got the players in this room to win games," Beasley said Sunday after the loss to Los Angeles. "I feel like we're definitely capable of winning games. I feel like, if they feel I need a fresh start, while that's understandable. But the team here, the players here ... is the same collection of guys who went to the Super Bowl a few years ago."
8. Sack count: The Falcons have not recorded a sack since the 9:50 mark of the third quarter against the Colts on Sept. 22.
Defensive ends Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley sacked Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett on second-and-13 from the Colts’ 22 that day.
In subsequent games against mobile quarterbacks, the Falcons failed to sack Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota, Houston’s Deshaun Watson, Arizona’s Kyler Murray and Los Angeles’ Jared Goff.
Overall, it’s been 318 defensive snaps since the Falcons recorded a sack.
The Colts ran 21 more plays after the Beasley-McKinley sack. There were 76 defensive snaps against the Rams, 69 in the Arizona game, 73 against Houston and 79 against Tennessee.
The Falcons have just five sacks, which is last in the NFL. The Dolphins and Jets have seven sacks.
9. Depth chart: Second-year wide receiver Calvin Ridley was moved up to the first team in Mohamed Sanu's old spot in the latest official depth chart released Tuesday by the Falcons.
Sanu was traded to the Patriots on Tuesday for a second-round draft choice in 2020.
Here’s the official depth chart for the Seahawks game:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 John Wetzel
LG 68 77 James Carpenter, 71 Wes Schweitzer
C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RG 68 Jamon Brown, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 74 Ty Sambrailo, 73 Matt Gono
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Luke Stocker, 87 Jaeden Graham
WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 25 Ito Smith, 38 Kenjon Barner, 23 Brian Hill, 32 Qadree Ollison
FB 40 Keith Smith
DE 98 Takkarist McKinley, 99 Adrian Clayborn
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
LB 59 De'Vondre Campbell, 54 Foyesade Oluokun
LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 Jermaine Grace
CB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 27 Damontae Kazee, 39 D.J. White
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 20 Kendall Sheffield, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 28 Jordan Miller
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman
SS 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Jamal Carter
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 9 Kasey Redfern
P 9 Kasey Redfern
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 8 Matt Schaub
KOR 38 Kenjon Barner, Ito Smith
PR Kenjon Barner
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