FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn's review of the film following Sunday's 24-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts revealed how his team not only blew multiple 14-point leads, but also squandered opportunities to capitalize with scores off early turnovers and sustain a drive to pull off a last-second win.
Whether it was a bad interception by Matt Ryan, dropped passes by receivers, mental mistakes on special teams or untimely penalties on defense, the Falcons gave the game away.
Most disturbing to Quinn, though, was how the Falcons lost their third straight close game and lost the turnover battle in the process.
"We've had six games that have been decided by four points or less, and we're 3-3 in those, and that's not good enough," Quinn said. "One of the best parts about this league is the competition, coming down to the end. Honestly it's part of the game I love the most. So for us to be 3-3 in those close games, that won't cut it.
"Furthermore, the story of our team is our philosophy: It's about the ball. On the ones that we do a good job of going after it defensively and taking care of it -- we're in the plus or zero turnover ratio -- we're 5-1. And the ones that we're not and in the minus, we're 1-3. So for that philosophy, we've got to live that."
All that being said, Quinn doesn't think his 6-4 Falcons, currently the sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture, will implode.
"The bear's not loose here inside the building," Quinn said. "I want to make sure we're really clear on that. We've got a really talented team, and a coaching staff that really believes in these guys. And we're going to do everything in our power to make sure as players and coaches we're going to be at our best every Sunday."
Here are a few hard lessons the Falcons learned after their latest collapse:
Check it down. Ryan is an experienced, three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, but he made a rookie-like mistake with his fourth-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown. Quinn said it was clear Ryan should have checked the ball down to fullback Patrick DiMarco in the flat. Quinn called it a "pretty high-percentage throw that went really bad." Ryan admitted he made a bad decision, "and those are the decisions that we count on him like crazy for us," Quinn added. "Although there were some things in the game that he did really well, that's one I know -- he probably told you the same -- that he would like to have back for us to be at our best."
Take a knee. Veteran return man Eric Weems returned a kickoff 8 yards deep in the end zone rather than taking a knee to preserve five precious seconds for a last-minute, fourth-quarter drive. If that situation resurfaces, you can bet Weems won't attempt a return, not with Keith Armstrong as his coach. Quinn admitted taking a knee wasn't reinforced to Weems. "He didn't defy a rule or anything like that," Quinn said. "I think it was more along the lines of a competitor saying, 'I'm going to go make a difference.' On the retrospect of the outcome, all those seconds are at a premium. So, good learning one for me as well."
Secure the ball. Going into the game, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson vowed to work on his drops; he was leading the team in that category. Well, Hankerson had the most critical drop of the game when he let the ball bounce out of his hands at the Falcons' 37-yard line with 43 seconds remaining and his team down three. Had he made the catch, maybe the Falcons finish with a game-winning or game-tying score. Rookie running back Tevin Coleman also hurt the team with a fumble at the end of the third quarter that stymied a drive.
Look back. Quinn said he definitely saw the contact on film regarding two defensive penalties whistled against rookie cornerbacks Jalen Collins and Akeem King in the third quarter that helped set up a Colts touchdown. Collins was whistled for defensive holding, while King picked up a questionable 20-yard pass-interference penalty. King saw where he made the mistake. "Really, I was in good position and everything, it was just I had to look back for the ball," King said. "That's what it came down to: looking back and making a play on the ball. By me not looking back, that's what caused the penalty. I take it as a learning experience. Next time, I'll be able to look back and get the pick. Personally, I didn't think it was P.I. Looking at the film, we said that's going to be 50/50. We can eliminate all that by looking back."