Falcons coach Dan Quinn admitted that he’s already starting to look at players for next season.
Quinn needs to find out who can help the team moving forward because this season is all but officially over heading into the final three regular-season games.
Quinn started Ty Sambrailo at right tackle in place of Ryan Schraeder, who struggled at times this season. He also played rookie defensive back Isaiah Oliver at cornerback in place of Robert Alford and got him some snaps at safety. Also, running back Brian Hill played some at fullback. He had one carry for five yards as the Falcons rushed for more than 100 yards for only the third time this season.
“That was certainly a plan to get some playing time at corner and at safety to guard tight ends and play outside,” Quinn said of Oliver, a second-round pick from Colorado. “It was definitely by design. We had some lineup changes. We had Sambrailo inside. We tried (Brian) Hill some at fullback. Isaiah we were playing him more reps outside. That was more by design for today.”
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With three games to play, the Falcons plan to continue to look at players for next season.
“I’ve started that already,” Quinn said. “Ty is certainly one that we wanted to do. We’ll go back and look at the performance and see how it went. Same thing with Brian and Isaiah. It wasn’t much past that. (Safety) Ryan Neal was active. We put him on special teams. That was his first performance. ... Some were limited roles.”
The Falcons, who have dropped five games in a row and have failed to score more than 20 points in each, will continue to look at players when the face the Cardinals at 1 p.m. Sunday in the home finale at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
“As dark as it is, the men that will get it right here in these next three weeks are the men standing here in this room,” Quinn said. “That’s how you work through it. Just wanting it to get better isn’t a great way to real progress.”
Quinn is embracing changes.
“You’ve got to make changes that are consistent and playing better,” Quinn said. “Whether if its turnovers or our style. All of that contributes to not scoring or allowing points to go. That’s what I told the team today.”
In addition to having a better rushing result, quarterback Matt Ryan had time to pass before the Falcons fell behind 34-7 and then rallied with two late touchdowns.
Ryan was sacked just once and hit on four plays. He was affected on just 11.6 percent of his 43 drop backs. Over the two previous games, he was affected on 35 percent of his drop backs.
Quinn didn’t think he’d be looking down the roster this far for help. But this season has exactly gone as planned.
“It’s definitely maddening,” Quinn said. “Frustrating and there is definitely some disbelief. All of those emotions are for sure there for me. Knowing who we have and how we want to play and not being consistent is what I see.”
Ryan was fine with the lineup changes.
“It happens at all times of the season,” Ryan said. “That’s the nature of this league. Injuries happen. Different things happen where guys are thrown in and you have to trust them to make plays.”
Ryan was pleased with the better pass protection.
“I thought our guys did a nice job and did some good things for us,” Ryan said. “We’ll evaluate it tomorrow and I’ll try and improve as we move forward.”
While the changes are set to continue, the Falcons’ locker room will likely change, too.
“I also know that margin for wins and losses in this league is razor thin,” Ryan said. “The reason we are 4-9 is because we’ve made mistakes in critical situations. That’s my message. We’ve got good players. We have got to make good plays when we have our chances. We all have to find a way to do that as we move forward.”
The Falcons also played defensive end Steven Means, who had not played since the Buccaneers game on Oct. 14. He’d been inactive for the past six games.
The Falcons sacked Aaron Rodgers four times and get got five quarterback hits. He escaped the pocket three times for 44 yards rushing, including a 21-yard gain.
“It’s tough,” defensive end Vic Beasley said. “We had a great game plan. I thought we would come in here and execute it, but it didn’t go our way. Things didn’t go our way the way we wanted them to. That’s just what it is.”
Beasley had a sack and a quarterback hit on Rodgers.
“We have great players on this team to win every ball,” Beasley said. “It comes down to execution. The team that executes best is the team that wins. That’s what it is at the end of the day.”