Quinn said Falcons made jump with win over Redskins

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Head coach discusses team's three straight wins after 1-3 start

Line of scrimmage key to win over a first-place team

Just a few weeks back, most where throwing dirt on the Falcons’ season. The grave of a lost campaign.

The multitude of key injuries were too much to overcome. A season of much-anticipated success seemed over before it really got started.

However, after winning three straight games, the Falcons improved to 4-4 and are considered to have a “trap game” against the dysfunctional Browns (2-6-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“We made a jump,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Monday, a day after a 38-14 win at the Redskins. “We certainly have other areas that we can improve upon. We’ll work our butt off in trying to do that.”

The Falcons have been waiting for the offense to carry the team to victory. They did that against the Redskins, building at 28-7 lead and then cruising to the win.

Quinn thought it was the best “line of scrimmage” game of the season.

“That was really a emphasis for us going in,” Quinn said. “Our pad level. Owning that kind of leverage. We made a big push at that.”

Quarterback Matt Ryan was the catalyst for the explosive offense. The play-action pass and run games worked in unison against the Redskins.

Quinn said the Falcons hit a few play-action passes early in the game and that helped to open up the run game.

"One of the things I really admire about him is consistency,” Quinn said of Ryan. “It’s not a sexy word because it’s not earned overnight. You’ve got to put it in over and over again. I wish you guys could come to practice to see the work he puts in out on the practice field all the way through to the game.”

Some contend that Ryan is playing better than his 2016 season that resulted in him winning the MVP award and carrying the team to Super Bowl LI.

“For him, yeah, he is playing consistently,” Quinn said. “But even past that, decision making, the accuracy and the toughness he displays. That’s what I think of Matt. All the work that he puts in to make sure that he’s at his best for his team and it shows up every week."

After the fine showing against the Redskins, the Falcons’ rushing attack improved from 83.3 yards per game to 92.1. They moved up from 30th to 28th in the league.

“The big guys put the work in,” Quinn said. “They did extra. They found their spots for our pad level that we could improve upon, but we’re encouraged to see that. We know we are at our best when both the run game and our pass game are in balance.”

The downfield blocking by the receivers help the offense, too.

“You are referring to what we call our finishing opportunities,” Quinn said. “Sometimes it is in the run game. Sometimes it’s the way after the catch and dropping your shoulder to get to a critical first down. I thought Julio (Jones) clearly demonstrated that at the end of the game.”

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu had several blocks down the field, including one on Calvin Ridley’s 40-yard touchdown catch with 36 second left in the second quarter.

“On third downs he is a real factor because of his length and size and his toughness,” Quinn said. “They hold themselves to a really high standard, our receivers do, and Mo is right in front of that in terms of what he does.”

The Browns will be playing their second game under interim head coach Gregg Williams. Former head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were recently terminated.

The Falcons don’t plan to worry about the turmoil in Cleveland, which was visible at times during their appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks during the exhibition season.

“It will start with us, and we have a number of things that we want to get better at as we are heading into the game,” Quinn said.

The victory over the Redskins could turn out to be major factor for the Falcons. It gave them head-to-head playoff tiebreaker advantage.

"When we get into difficult moments, we know we (must) stay the course and lean on one another to get ready,” Quinn said. “It was an excellent performance in all three phases (against the Redskins).”

The Falcons are not ready to rest on their laurels after climbing back to .500.

“There is not a moment that we are ready to go relax and this we are okay with where we are at,” Quinn said. “We have got plenty of work to do and you can count on this group of guys to do it."

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