Falcons aim to flip messy turnover script

Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant celebrates with Brian Poole after intercepting Aaron Rodgers of the Packers during the second quarter September 17 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant celebrates with Brian Poole after intercepting Aaron Rodgers of the Packers during the second quarter September 17 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons are 3-1, just as they were at this point last season, yet there’s something demonstrably different about this team, and coach Dan Quinn is suitably miffed about the issue.

On the way to the Super Bowl last season, the Falcons were plus-11 in turnover margin, which ranked No. 5 in the NFL, and this season the Falcons are minus-4, 29th in the League.

The Falcons want to do something about that beginning Sunday against the Dolphins (2-2).

“We’re certainly going to try to . . .” Quinn said. “If you asked me if after four games we’d have only two takeaways, I’d have said, ‘In the first half?’”

It’s true.

Quinn loves to say, “We’re all about the ball,” yet their turnover margin has been all about two players.

Cornerback Desmond Trufant registered the Falcons’ only takeaways with an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown in a win over the Packers.

Quarterback Matt Ryan has all six Falcons turnovers – in the past two games – on five interceptions and a peculiar lost fumble against the Bills that looked to many as if it were an incomplete pass.

It would be easy to attach four asterisks to this unbalanced equation, as three of Ryan’s interceptions went off the hands of Falcons receivers, and Quinn said that, “I thought we missed some opportunities (for takeaways).

“I didn’t think there was a lack of going for it. I thought we dropped a few interceptions that we really needed to capitalize on. We really need to be mindful for some of the forced fumbles.”

There are no asterisks allowed, though, as the numbers are the numbers.

Ryan, who threw seven interceptions last season when the Falcons turned the ball over only 11 times in 16 games against 22 takeaways, isn’t losing his mind about this, at least not yet. He’s soldiering onward.

“That’s part of playing the game. Sometimes you have tipped balls,” he said. “Sometimes you have plays that don’t go your way.”

The Falcons skirted defeat in Detroit, where two of Ryan’s three interceptions were tipped, without a takeaway. A week later, another minus-three margin was too much to overcome, which it usually is in the NFL. Quinn knows the numbers.

“For teams over the first five weeks that were minus-3 (in a game), their records were 1-15, and those aren’t good odds,” he said. “We happened to be the one (in the win over the Lions). That’s not how we live, and not how we go, so yes, it’s an emphasis for us.”

Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said it’s not for lack of trying that the Falcons haven’t forced and recovered but one fumble, that coming when Vic Beasley sacked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“Those things tend to come in bunches,” Manuel said. “We can do a better job of tackling. Opportunities will happen for us. ... You don’t press for that. Those things happen when you’re doing your job.”

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett isn’t suggesting pressing, but more stripping and ripping might work.

“Just be more aggressive, go after the ball whether that’s when you’re making a tackle or make a recovery when the fumble is there,” he suggested. “It’s definitely a core value and our defense takes pride in getting the ball away . . . we go about our approach the same way. We trust our process and that it’s going to work.”

Quinn, Ryan and the Falcons are sticking to their practices and processes even as the Falcons did not take have a takeaway in wins in Chicago and Detroit, nor in a loss to Buffalo.

“Usually, those forced fumbles come on sacks and I like the way that our pass rush is improving so I’m anticipating that part of our game coming to life,” Quinn said. “It’s an area that I know we’ll get corrected, and as we move forward I would anticipate that number switching and going on the plus side.”

Ryan said the plan is to soldier onward without making anxious changes.

“It’s about being resilient and being mentally tough,” he explained, “and continuing to stay aggressive and do the things that we’ve done to be at our best and trusting that process.”

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan discusses the offense's issues with turnovers, deep passing and their problems in the red zone. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)