It is a matchup of a team that was supposed to be competing and a team that was supposed to be rebuilding.
And yet, they both come in with one win and the two fanbases could not be further apart in their confidence in their team.
It seems as though the Falcons are entering the final twilight of the Dan Quinn era.
We talked with our friends over at The Falcoholic who are dealing with whatever this is for the Falcons.
Dave Choate was nice enough to stop in and talk with us, so let’s take a look at five questions and five answers with The Falcoholic.
1. Let’s start with the obvious... What the hell has happened to the Atlanta Falcons?
They’ve gambled on themselves and lost, basically. The reality is that with a handful of exceptions, no one appears to be playing or coaching all that well this season, and the defense in particular is plagued by communication issues and errors of execution that have proven costly.
The big changes on the coaching side of things have not worked. That’s bad news for Dan Quinn, who also assumed control of the defense and has seen it put up worse numbers through five games than it did under former head coach Mike Smith, who by the way got fired in 2014 after his second straight poor season. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t seem like an on-paper upgrade over Steve Sarkisian but I wanted to keep an open mind about him. Unfortunately, to this point his offense has largely been so-so.
Throw in injuries (to starting right guard Chris Lindstrom and strong safety Keanu Neal, in particular), players taking steps backward or not progressing (second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver and this team’s edge rushers), and sheer bad luck (nine forced fumbles, no recoveries on defense) and you’ve got a bad football team. They can fix this, but it might be too late already.
2. Julio Jones has been limited in practice, are we expecting decoy Julio or full go Julio this week?
I’m expecting typical Julio. He’s typically dinged up after the first couple of weeks of the season, but it rarely impacts his performance in any meaningful way. He’ll be out there playing his typical complement of snaps (70-80%) and hopefully having his best game in a few weeks. Dirk Koetter’s offense has not suited him to this point, unfortunately, but (and I mean no offense) he has a prime matchup this week.
3. Why is the defense struggling so much?
There’s a few things going on here. The first is that Dan Quinn has a fairly simplistic defense that opposing offenses know coming in has areas to exploit. The Falcons play a lot of zone, and with their team speed they’ve been content to give receivers cushion and try to keep plays in front of them. That might work if the defense was playing well, but right now it’s a disaster.
Much of that has to do with failed open field tackling, which has been a team-wide problem, and awful communication in the secondary. Against the Texans, there were multiple occasions where no one handed off Will Fuller, allowing him to get wide open. That was especially glaring on Fuller’s first touchdown grab, where he literally ran untouched into the end zone and was only contested when he already had the ball in his hands. That problem is unlikely to get better this week with top cornerback Desmond Trufant likely to miss the game, but honestly all of these issues seem like they should be easy to fix. They just haven’t proven to be.
4. Is Dan Quinn on the hot seat?
I think he’s already cooked on his seat. Quinn fired all three coordinators, assumed control of the defense, and with GM Thomas Dimitroff splurged on the offensive and defensive lines this offseason. This was an all-in year, where the Falcons were expected to at least contend for the playoffs after all those moves. The fact that they’re 1-4 for the second straight year with less severe injuries and even worse performances suggests that barring a miracle turnaround, Quinn is out.
I do think the Falcons can and will win this one. I don’t know if I’d say that if Arizona was fully healthy and I’m not at all confident they’ll be able to stop the Cardinals offense, but I do expect a big day from Atlanta’s offense and think they’re overdue for some turnover luck to go their way, enabling them to squeeze by in a shootout, say something like 34-31. With their freefall, though, it’s not that confident of a prediction.