FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Losing always stinks, but Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Monday the lopsided nature of his team’s sixth straight defeat -- 38-0 Sunday at Carolina -- was, “Way worse, no doubt.”
The first-year head coach, who had sit-down meetings with at least two players and an assistant coach, has preached to players about giving their all and keeping their poise.
Yet a day after the Falcons (6-7) were shut out for the first time since 2004, Quinn went face-to-face with cornerback Robert Alford on the topic of effort, and with defensive linemen Ra’Shede Hageman and defensive line coach Bryan Cox about keeping their cool.
Alford appeared to stop defending Carolina wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. moments before he caught a 74-yard touchdown pass that contributed to the Panthers’ 21-0 first-quarter lead.
Hageman got in a sideline shoving match with Cox shortly after the play.
On the play itself, Ginn was beyond Alford on the left sideline, and it looked like he stopped running as Cam Newton’s pass was in the air.
“It certainly did,” Quinn said. “We are all about finishing so that one was difficult for him and for us. We met this morning. There is no discipline. He’s the same guy that won the ballgame for us against the Washington Redskins [with an overtime interception return Oct. 11]. I have all the faith in him.”
A flag had flown in the vicinity prior to the catch, and Alford may have felt that Ginn had stepped out of bounds -- which would have made him an ineligible receiver -- or he was guilty of offensive pass interference when the two made contact. Alford was not available Monday.
Officials did not rule Ginn had stepped out of bounds and the flag was likely going to be for pass interference.
Quinn was disappointed that Alford let up on the play.
On the game’s third play, the third-year veteran failed to hold containment as Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart busted a 44-yard run on a drive that ended with the Panthers taking a 7-0 lead.
Alford also dropped a potential interception Sunday, and was twice whistled for interference only to have Carolina decline both calls.
“The fact that he didn’t play the way he’s capable on that play and a couple others, that was a conversation we absolutely had,” Quinn said. “[The dropped interception] was one of them as well.”
Hageman, who also was unavailable Monday, appeared annoyed following the extra point that came after the first of Ginn’s two long touchdowns. When Cox tried to calm the second-year pro, Hageman shoved him. Quinn intervened on the sideline.
Nerves are frayed in Atlanta, where memories of the Falcons’ starts of 5-0 and 6-1 have faded. Four losses have come in one-score games, and the Minnesota Vikings beat Atlanta 20-10 on Nov. 29.
Sunday in Charlotte was different in a lot of ways, with a slew of uncomfortable moments.
“Two emotional guys, disagreement ... for sure that is one I handled in-house with both of them,” the head coach said. “They’re both top-notch guys. Cox, looking out for [Hageman]. It was an emotional time, but at no time is that going to be part of our football way. I talked to both of them about it.”