Quinn vows to remain aggressive, doesn’t regret fourth-down call

After the Falcons blew a late-lead for the second consecutive game, Falcons coach Dan Quinn wanted the team to focus on closing out games during his team meeting on Monday.

He had the players watch an old middleweight championship bout between Marvin Hagler and Vito Antuofermo from 1979.

The judges determined the fight was a draw and the bloodied Antuofermo retained his WBC and WBA championship belts. It was Hagler’s first shot at the title. And the referee Mills Lane positioned Hagler to be the winner before the draw was announced.

“What he said at that point was that he’s never going to let it be put in anybody else’s hands,” Quinn said of Hagler. “From this day forward, these are going to be my judges (his hands). We have to get to that spot.”

The Falcons have to get to a point where a fourth-down gamble doesn’t hurt them. A missed pass-interference or illegal contact call is not damaging. Four false-starts have to be eliminated.

“When we have the lead and it’s time to close, we are not going to put it in anybody else’s hands,” Quinn said. “It’s not going to be anybody else who’s going to have to make a call, we are going to own it. That’s what we are working toward.”

The message from the title bout resonated with the team.

“This game is our hands,” fullback Patrick DiMarco said. “It’s not in anybody else’s hands. We have to go out and play better and get (wins)on Sundays. That’s what we get paid to do.”

Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews also took home the same message.

“I think personally the reason we lost that game was on ourselves,” Matthews said. “We did too many things … whether if they were penalties or (miss identifications) or whatever it was, we feel like we beat ourselves. You have to give them credit because they are a very good team, but we always harp on the fact that we are very confident that we can play with and beat every team in this league.”

Matthews was a central figure in the failed fourth-and-1 call in overtime from the Falcons’ 45-yard line. His missed his block and Devonta Freeman was stuffed in the backfield by Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman.

“I did get a little tripped up, but I think I could have had better footwork on it,” Matthews said. “It was my fault.”

The Falcons rallied from 17-3 deficit to take a 24-17 lead against Seattle, but a late-game interception and non-call led to a 26-24 defeat. Against the Chargers, the Falcons blew a 27-10 lead and lost 33-30 in overtime.

“It’s frustrating to have such a big lead and lose it,” Matthews said. “We just have to get back to doing what we did when we won games. It starts on Wednesday. It’s the same answer every time, whether if we win or lose, get back to stuff that we know works.”

Quinn said he lost sleep over the outcome of the game, but not over his decision to roll the dice on fourth down in overtime.

Last season, in a similar situation at San Francisco he kicked a field goal instead of going for the win. The Falcons ended up losing when the defense couldn’t hold Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers.

That decision haunted him all of last season and over the offseason. He was determined to be aggressive and go-for-it if faced with another fourth-down decision.

“We have one of the very best offenses in the NFL,” Quinn said. “We are going to ride that horse.”

The players continued to support the decision.

“We have an attack mindset,” Matthews said. “We went for it and we didn’t get it. We have to get it next time.”