Falcons’ reeling after latest fourth-quarter collapse

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said the team is not psychologically damaged from their third fourth quarter collapse and he discuss their plaster rules.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

After the third major collapse in the fourth quarter this season, the Falcons (1-6) are embracing the short week before facing the Panthers (3-4) at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

“I’m actually fired up coming off a loss like that to get back on the grass,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said Monday.

The psyche of team may be rattled, but not according to Morris.

“No,” Morris said. “There are no psychological issues here. There are no excuses.”

However, running back Todd Gurley, who botched falling down at the 1-yard line in an attept to seal the game, was tough on himself after the latest collapse, a 23-22 loss to the Lions Sunday.

“What I’ve learned to deal with since I’ve been able to be in the league, it’s definitely a mental thing,” Gurley said. "It’s either you get in those situations and then you have guys, or myself, be like, ‘Here we go again.’ That attitude. That’s any sport, a fight — once you say that you’re already beat mentally.

“You may not say that out loud to your opponent, your opponent may not hear that. But yourself, you’re already beat mentally. You don’t even want to be in that space.”

ExploreTodd Gurley: ‘I shouldn’t have scored’

The Falcons blew double-digit fourth-quarter leads in losses to the Cowboys and Bears. They didn’t want the defense on the field at the end of the game against Lions and for good reason.

The Lions, with just 1:04 to play, marched down the field and Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, the former Georgia standout, tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass as time expired. Kicker Matt Prater made the extra point for the victory.

“Obviously, being in this situation multiple times this year, damn, we keep finding a way to put ourselves in this situation but, it’s a cliche, but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” Gurley said. “And if we were supposed to lose every game we wouldn’t show up. We’d just let the other team win.”

The Falcons are making the wrong kind of history.

“Obviously, we’re giving y’all something you have never seen before, which is not being able to overcome a lot of games at the end or make it a normal thing,” Gurley said. “We just have to fix that.”

The Falcon loss 23-16 to the Panthers to drop to 0-5 on Oct. 11. It was coach Dan Quinn’s last game. He was fired hours later. With a chance to tie the game 20-20, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan tossed an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

"You don’t want players or fans saying, ‘Oh, the Falcons have done it again,’ " Gurley said.

Like Morris, Ryan believes the short week will help the Falcons get over the sting from the Detroit loss.

“Playing on Thursday night, makes you get out of the funk that you’re in after a tough loss,” Ryan said. “Getting back into a game plan quickly. Talking with coaches this morning, starting to make plans for Thursday night kind of helps. I think the biggest thing is to get back onto the practice field (on Tuesday).”

Like Quinn before him, Morris doesn’t know what is the issue with the Falcons and the fourth quarter.

“We have not played well in some of the fourth quarters,” Morris said. “Even in our win against Minnesota, I talked about wanting to finish that game better. We have to find ways to finish games better and play better at those moments. Usually, in those moments is when the big-time players step up and make plays. I’m fully expecting them to do that.”

After a 14-play, 98-yard touchdown drive, a well-rested defense should have stopped the Lions with 29 seconds left befoe halftime. The Lions gained chunks of yardage – 10, 18 and 20 yards – to get in position for a 52-yard field goal attempt with three seconds to spare.

The drive was why Gurley was ordered to fall later in the game. However, he crossed the goalline for a touchdown, giving the Lions the ball back for the game-winning drive.

“When we get the guys the ball back and it’s (29) seconds left in the half, you can’t allow them to go down and get three,” Morris said. “We have to step up. We have to end the halves with the ball. We have to do a better job of that. It’s burned us a bunch this season.”

Morris is looking for someone to make a play in those end-of-half or end-of-game situations.

“If you own your stuff and do the right thing situationally, you can end those with the ball in your hands,” Morris said. “With an interception, a knocked down pass, with the team taking a knee and getting out of dodge. We did a poor job of executing (against Detroit). We have been throughout the season. It’s something that we have to get better at and we have to get better at it in a hurry.”

On the game-winning touchdown, linebacker Deion Jones stopped covering the tight end T.J. Hockenson as he saw Stafford leaving the pocket.

“Our plastering rules have to get applied better,” Morris said. “We have to track that man all the way across the field, and take him, end that game with a knocked down pass and run out of that stadium with a win in the last seconds.”

Also, on the pass rush, Dante Fowler nearly broke free. Grady Jarrett got double teamed. Steven Means, rushing from tackle, didn’t get up the field. Takk McKinley bull-rushed too deep and went past the quarterback.

“Dante Fowler had a great rush off the left edge,” Morris said. “You could have considered a holding when he gets rolled over and tackled to the ground. But Stafford made a great play stepping up to his left, moving to his left.”

Morris admitted that the coaches will have to consider blitzing more in their two-minute defense. Sitting back in zone has been hurting them.

“We may have to go to some things to get a little bit more aggressive in that situation,” Morris said. “That’s one of the evaluations that we have to do as a coaching staff in order to help our guys get going and get going a little bit faster.”

Falcons' next four games

Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29

Broncos at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8

Bye Week

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

Las Vegas Raiders at Falcons at 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 29

The Bow Tie Chronicles Podcasts:

Can be found on Google, iTunes and TuneIn

For more content about the Atlanta Falcons

Follow me on Twitter @DorlandoAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now

Atlanta Falcons coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Have a question? Email me at dledbetter@ajc.com

In Other News