Takk McKinley wasn’t much in the mood to talk Wednesday, at least not in detail about Falcons coach Dan Quinn’s message of the day, which was “prepare and focus.”
Perhaps he was relatively quiet because he took the topic personally.
Quinn on Wednesday showed the team video of the 2001 heavyweight boxing match between Rahim Rahman and world champion Lennox Lewis – who roughly was a 20-1 favorite in a match for which he was infamously undertrained.
Rahman was supremely trained, and when Lewis dropped his hands to his side for a moment in the fifth round – when he lost his focus – the challenger knocked out the champ.
McKinley hasn’t been knocking quarterbacks down, let alone out, and that’s the primary job description attached to defensive ends.
Quinn continues to insist that he’s satisfied with his team’s preparation, but that it’s not carrying into games, where the Falcons keep losing focus. They blanked many times while committing 13 penalties, many of them debilitating, in Sunday’s loss at Green Bay.
McKinley didn’t commit a penalty, but he went without a sack for the eighth time in nine games and he didn’t hit the quarterback.
He did pressure Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers into a sack by Terrell McClain, but since ringing up 5.5 sacks and three QB hits in his first three games this season, he has one sack and three hits in nine games.
When asked why he thinks the Falcons are having focus issues, McKinley said, “I wish not to discuss that.”
The 2017 first-round pick from UCLA did, however, elaborate moments later on the topic of Quinn’s video lesson.
“You had one guy out there who had trained and was prepared for the fight and the other guy who was out there just like, ‘I can win the fight,’” McKinley said. “It just showed that you’ve got to put the work in to be successful.
“Lennox, he didn’t respect his opponent, and he got knocked out. It was that simple. That’s what I got from it. It made perfect sense. I got the picture.”
The Falcons want McKinley to get the picture more often.
He can heat up with the best and clearly was angry a few weeks ago when he picked up a New Orleans player after a play ended and body-slammed him for a penalty.
That wasn’t good. He lost focus.
McKinley’s 5.5 sacks in 12 games are just shy of the 6.0 that he had as a rookie, yet with the Falcons mired in a five-game losing streak he’s not celebrating anything.
“Losing is not fun. Losing when you’re not producing like you want to is not fun, but all you can do is come back to work and keep grinding,” he said. “Hopefully, on Sundays perform like you want to perform.”
Given production of late, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel was asked if McKinley’s emotions are blurring his focus and performance on the field.
Manuel started by saying no, and then seemed to say maybe.
“I wouldn’t say that because he still comes in with the intent to go hard. When we see the fact that he’s not, that’s a whole different story and we’re not seeing that,” the coach explained. “The details of his craft, that’s a whole different ballgame and that’s what we’re all trying ... we’re all at this very adverse point, and how do we move forward?”
How might coaches and teammates help McKinley get back on his game?
“You have to continuously keep him focused and that’s all of us on the staff, all of us as players because his aggression, we need it in between the whistles. We don’t need it post-snap. We don’t need it on the sideline,” Manuel said.
“... I love the testosterone, but let’s pay attention to the details on the field, and that was really my message to the whole group. Aggression is great, but now we need to do it between the whistles.”
For his part, McKinley said he plans to keep plugging away.
“Same as it’s been all year,” he said of his preparations for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “Through the week work, grind and when Sunday comes, last home game at the stadium this year, try to get a win for the fans.”
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