Matt Ryan didn’t play, which happens once a decade. The Atlanta Falcons lost, which happens once a week. That this defeat wasn’t as bad – they won the second half 20-3 – as others of recent vintage shows how far this franchise has sunk. Halfway through a season, the Falcons have been reduced to celebrating a comparatively close loss.
They’re 1-7. They trailed at halftime Sunday 24-0, marking the sixth time in eight games they’ve been in arrears by double figures at the break. They’ve been outscored by 94 points in eight first halves.
How do you get to 1-7? By not starting to play until the game’s halfway done. By falling so far behind your primary motivation isn’t winning – it’s avoiding abject humiliation. They lost 27-20 Sunday, as opposed to the 37-10 of last week. Backup quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 460 yards. They outgained the 6-2 Seahawks by 190 yards. None of this mattered.
Said Dan Quinn, who may or may not be coaching this team when it plays in New Orleans on Nov. 10: “We came out in the second half and fought back. … We need to come out in second half of season the way we played in that second half.”
Also: “They showed they’ve got a lot of resiliency and toughness. It shows a lot about who they are.”
Wasn’t it Bill Parcells who said, “You are what your record says you are.” (Yes, it was.) We can talk about toughness until the cows come home, but all that counts – or should count – is that a talented assemblage has lost seven times in eight weeks. There have been 1-7 Falcons teams before; there has never been one so disappointing.
Cue Arthur Blank, the team’s owner. After this latest loss, he appeared in the tunnel outside the locker room to offer remarks. He began by saying, “We’re extremely disappointed. Nobody anticipated 1-7.”
That’s correct. Nobody did. So what might be done about it?
Blank: “We’ll take the next couple of weeks, get through the bye, to evaluate where we are, and whatever decision we have to make, we’ll make.”
The off-week ensures the Falcons won’t lose over the next 13 days, so hooray for that. Some believe Blank could use the hiatus as an opportunity to thank Quinn for his services. Blank, it must be said, didn’t hint at such a move.
Instead: “We have a lot of intelligence on the coaching staff.”
Just going to let that one sit there, OK?
Blank: “We’ll make the right decision.”
And: “I understand I have a responsibility to the fans.”
And: “We’ll continue to think really hard.”
And: “We have no plans on making any changes right now.”
But plans can change, can they not?
Then: “We’ll do what’s best for the franchise and the team.”
Someone mentioned the conspicuous empty seats in Mercedes-Benz Stadium the past two Sundays.
“It’s very painful.”
Then: “The players have not lost confidence in the coach. They’re as befuddled as we are.”
Then, asked if he would rule out making a coaching change: “I’ve already answered that.”
He hadn’t quite, but never mind. There are only two things Blank can do now – fire Quinn or stick with Quinn, at least for the next eight games. The season is beyond saving, which is befuddling and downright unbelievable. The Falcons, who considered themselves a playoff-caliber when September began, are essentially done before Halloween. It’s clear Blank has deep affection for Quinn, which is understandable: DQ is a nice guy. But nothing has gotten better since the forlorn opener in Minneapolis, which is likewise beyond belief.
That said, what does an organization gain from firing a coach in midseason? There are three former head coaches on staff – Dirk Koetter, Raheem Morris and Mike Mularkey – but all were fired from their most recent jobs. One thing keeping Quinn would do is inoculate the Falcons from making too much of a cosmetic correction wrought by an interim coach. Just as we shouldn’t take this second half as a corner turned.
In Week 8, the Seahawks did the same as Minnesota had done in Week 1. (We say again: This has been ongoing all season.) They took a huge lead and nursed it. With Brian Schottenheimer, last seen bailing out on the Georgia Bulldogs after Mark Richt’s firing and before the TaxSlayer Bowl, as offensive coordinator, Seattle almost cut it too fine.
Had Devonta Freeman not fumbled inside the 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter, the coach whose tenure will be recalled t for a blown 25-point lead might have seen his latest/last team override a 24-point deficit. But these are the Falcons, and Freeman, in trying to extend for extra yardage, put it on the turf. The Falcons looked pretty good the second half. Once again, though, they never led. They’ve gotten good at not leading.
Much was made this week of Julio Jones’ impassioned locker-room defense of Quinn, and Jones did his part Sunday – 10 catches, 152 yards. But if the great receiver’s oratory was all that persuasive, mightn’t his teammates have roused themselves a tad earlier? Job 1 for every coach in every sport at every level: Get your team ready to play. The 2019 Falcons have been the most un-ready team in the history of football.
If Blank is seeking a reason to fire Quinn, there it is. At this late date, though, does it matter? “We have six division games to go,” Quinn said, and that’s true. What’s also true is that the Falcons could sweep all six and not be guaranteed of making the playoffs. Whatever the high-profile owner opts to do, assuming he does anything at all, the ship has sunk.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.