Atlanta Falcons: Bad Defense or Bad Culture?

Death, Taxes, COVID-19, and the Atlanta Falcons blowing leads in football games. These are the things that we can guarantee in 2020 it seems. The Atlanta Falcons have started this new season 0-4 which is the first time Atlanta has started the first four games winless since 1999. After last week’s loss against Chicago, the Falcons became the first team ever to blow two 15-point fourth-quarter leads in the same season. It’s easy to look at Atlanta giving up 30 points a game and pin the issue on the defense even though they have played three NFL passing yards leaders and Mitchell Trubisky. However, could it be something more than just bad D? After all, in the fourth quarter alone the Falcons have given up a whopping 51 points.

Against the Bears, their lead was 26-10 heading into the fourth quarter. In the game against the Cowboys, they held a 29-10 lead at half time. Both of these leads are at least two-possession leads and the Bears offense has not shown to be that good this season. One can make the argument for losing against Dak Prescott who is the league leader in yards, but not against the Chicago Bears who rank 24th in total offense and have a bit of a QB controversy going on. The sample size is a bit small, but in four games this season the Atlanta Falcons have been outscored 51-30 in the fourth quarter alone. Which shows me it’s an issue on both sides of the ball. The Atlanta Falcons have only outscored one team this season and that’s the Green Bay Packers. Who, if you watched the game as I did had everything wrapped up at about halftime when they held a 20-3 lead.

Video Credit: YouTube

One thing is clear about this Atlanta team, they can not finish. Even if we add in the 2019 season when they finished 7-9 there were only two games that entire season where they scored less than 20 points. This Atlanta Falcons team can put up points when they decide to. In looking at some of their games this season, mainly Dallas and Green Bay it is clear that only Matt Ryan and a few others want to win games. It’s clear in their frustration and their readiness when on the ball. Looking at other players on the team, it’s clear they are not giving the effort that they need to, especially when they have a lead or are in intense game-winning situations. See below for an example.

This is one play out of God knows how many, but this is where it is the clearest above. At this point in the game, the Atlanta Falcons can close this out by simply being aggressive and jumping on the football. Instead of jumping on the ball, there are four Falcons that sort of stare at it and even back away from it while it goes ten yards. What is the reason for this? It’s a clear cultural issue stemming from the Head Coach by not expecting actual aggressiveness from his guys. The coach is being walked on in many regards judging by the lack of effort that can be seen watching by watching games this year.

This is one play, but ever since the Super Bowl where they blew a 28-3 lead this Falcons team has been abysmal outside of 2017 when they went 10-6. Back to back 7-9 seasons directly after back to back seasons making the playoffs does not make any sense what so ever. So what is the similarity that has been there the past three years including this one? Head Coach Dan Quinn, as a head coach you set the tone, you set the culture, you set the expectations, you set all of it and back to back blown leads this year and back to back below .500 seasons of doing “just enough to get by” should put this coach on the hot seat if Atlanta does not finish with at least nine wins this season.

The Atlanta Falcons have had three different Defensive Coordinators in Four years, and the one time they didn’t have a new defensive coordinator was in 2018 when Dan Quinn decided to do it himself while being a head coach. Now he is sort of aiming himself to be free from firing once again by ensuring that the new Defensive Coordinator takes the fall rather than him. Could the new Defensive Coordinator be bad? Sure, but four games is a little early to tell and in four years the team has had four different defensive coordinators if you count Quinn doing it himself in 2018.

Over the past few years Atlanta has brought in new defensive coordinators, new players on defense, better draft picks, the whole nine and they are still doing terrible in that regard. So the conclusion of the original question is simple, bad culture.

If you are ever interested in why it seems teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots seem to be able to just plug in anyone and have over .500 seasons. The reason for it is the culture of both teams. Atlanta should be a perennial playoff team but there is one thing that is holding them back, their Head Coach.

What do you feel is the reason for the Atlanta Falcons not closing out games? Leave a comment below.

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