Falcons > It’s Back to Basics for Quinn and Atlanta

| April 7, 2015

Falcons Quinn

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons are two seasons removed from winning 13 games to finish with the best record in the NFC and taking the NFC South division crown. The 2013 and 2014 seasons were forgettable, with the Falcons totaling ten wins and finishing third in the NFC South both years. Atlanta hopes to get back to its winning ways with new hires in head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Quinn has started this process by focusing on getting the Falcons back to the basics, fewer penalties and better tackling.

The last time they made the playoffs in 2012, the Falcons finished as the least-penalized team in the NFL. That’s not the only reason they made the playoffs, but controlling penalties certainly plays a huge factor in winning games. The more disciplined teams that don’t beat themselves tend to be more successful. This has become even more true the past few seasons as the NFL has transitioned to a passing league. It has adjusted the way referees officiate on defense, making it more difficult to defend without being penalized for illegal contact or unneccesasry roughness.

Quinn has already said that he will have officials at practices throughout the season to help his players get a better understanding of how the game will be called and when they cross the line. A few teams have tried this method in the past, but it is a relatively uncommon practice. However, it can only be beneficial to have the officials who are calling the games on Sundays at practices during the week to get the players in the habit of using legal tactics. If nothing else, this is a move to ensure that players understand the importance of limiting penalties. Quinn’s early attention to detail is a good sign that the Falcons will be a much more disciplined team than we have seen in recent years.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Falcons ranked 28 in the league last season with 132 missed tackles over 1106 snaps, or a 0.199 missed tackle/snap rate. Quinn’s Seattle Seahawks unit was not much better, ranking 17 in the league with 105 missed tackles over 1002 snaps, good for a 0.105 missed tackle/snap rate. This stat could be a little misleading for the Seahawks considering the style they played with last season.

Their defense was so good at swarming the ball that players would often miss the initial tackle because they were trying to strip the ball, knowing help was coming either way. Regardless, missing tackles was obviously one the Falcons’ biggest issues last season and will be a focus for Quinn.

By limiting penalties and missed tackles the Falcons should also improve their third-down defense, which was the worst in the league last season. According to ESPN.com, Atlanta allowed opponents to convert 46.8% of their third downs attempted in 2014. Consequently, Atlanta also allowed a league-worst 358 first downs last season.

One of the keys to getting off the field on third down is getting to the quarterback, especially on third downs. It will be a focal point of Quinn’s defensive gameplan.

“The biggest thing for us is affecting the quarterback, and that may be the hits on him, the times we can move him off the spot. The third-down sacks are critical ones, ’cause that’s getting off the field. For us, the biggest thing is affecting the quarterback, maybe by the way we rush, maybe by the way we pressure, maybe by the way we cover or combination of all of those. But affecting him is the No. 1 thing.”

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