Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 28d

Falcons blow another big lead, lose late 30-26 to Bears; Quinn's seat hotter

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons blew a 26-10 lead with 6 minutes, 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter and fell 30-26 to the Chicago Bears, leaving coach Dan Quinn's job status in serious jeopardy.

“Well, yeah, [owner Arthur Blank and I] visit every week: pre-game, postgame, Mondays, through the week," Quinn said.

The Falcons blew a 29-10 lead and late 15-point lead in last week's 40-39 loss at Dallas. Quinn also was coach when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in a Super Bowl XLI loss to the New England Patriots.

The Falcons are the first team in NFL history to lose twice in one season while holding a 15-point-plus lead in the fourth quarter, according to Elias.

Questionable play-calling by offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, with Quinn overseeing everything, backfired on the Falcons. Koetter continued to call pass plays as the Falcons held the lead despite a solid day on the ground from both running backs Todd Gurley and Brian Hill.

The Falcons passed the ball five times and ran the ball only once on two consecutive possessions after holding a 26-16 fourth-quarter lead, running little clock in the process. In the quarter, the Falcons attempted 11 passes and ran the ball four times while going 0-for-4 on third down.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who turned 78 on Sunday, kept both Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff this season with hopes of turning it around after back-to-back, 7-9 showings. Now Blank has a decision to make regarding Quinn's status or any other changes that could be made.

The Falcons played without their best player, with star receiver Julio Jones sidelined by a hamstring injury. In fact, six key starters were unavailable Sunday. But Quinn said he would not use a slew of injuries as an excuse going into the game. Instead of a new start to the season, now they limp into Week 4 at Green Bay sitting at 0-3.

Quinn promised a better version of his team following losses to the Seahawks and Cowboys, with the implosion at Dallas and botched onside kick recovery fresh in mind. He can add the Bears to that list, too.

"Well, No. 1, it falls on me in all spaces. I want to make sure we’re clear on that. But, we’re all in this together. And so when there’s a game, there’s things to do differently — offensively, defensively, on [special] teams," Quinn said. "We are all connected on it together. But at the end of the game, the results and setting up things for how we go, that falls right to me."

The Falcons created explosive plays even without arguably the league's most feared receiver in Jones on the field. It started from the jump after Matt Ryan's 63-yard hookup with Calvin Ridley on the very first offensive play. It set up Ryan's 1-yard touchdown toss to Hayden Hurst. Then came a 35-yard touchdown sprint by running back Brian Hill off a second-quarter draw as he followed his blockers and made a nifty cutback en route to the end zone. It was the Falcons' longest running play since Hill broke off a 60-yard run in December of 2018 against Carolina.

There was also Gurley's 16-yard burst in the third quarter that helped set up his own 10-yard touchdown run, where he stiff-armed a defender to the ground. It helped the Falcons outscore the Bears 10-0 in the third quarter, and the Falcons had been outscored by opponents 28-0 in third quarters entering the contests.

Gurley, speaking up to the team after the loss, offered his perspective on how to move on and correct the season:

"It’s so much football left. We just got to take care of the next game; put this behind us," Gurley said. "Whatever you gotta do, 24-hour rule. Drink yourself to death, sh**, come back tomorrow, Tuesday, ‘Hey, we got to get this thing going.'"

Still, the loss puts their head coach's job is on even shakier ground.

"We’ve got his back," Matt Ryan said of Dan Quinn. "We’ve got to play better as players. That’s what you have to focus on. I think when things aren’t going well, it’s easy to look around and see what everybody else is doing or where everybody else screwing up. The only way we’re going to improve as a unit is if we all kind of look in the mirror and find ways to improve individually, and make sure we’re the best version of ourselves individually when we go out there."

Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris' unit shrugged off a sluggish start to create some takeaways and eventually get Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky benched in favor of Nick Foles. Both Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Darqueze Dennard had interception, including Dennard taking the ball away from Allen Robinson in the end zone to prevent a Bears score. The Falcons entered the game allowing opponents to convert 9 of 10 red-zone opportunities. However, injuries mounted up and defensive lapses contributed heavily to the Falcons being outscored 20-0 in the fourth quarter.

PROMISING TREND: Let's go back to the running game. The Falcons surpassed 100 yards rushing with Gurley and Hill making up a solid, 1-2 combination. Gurley showed flashes of his old self, including breaking some tackles and displaying speed. Hill gave everyone a glimpse of why he was the talk of training camp. More than anything, it gave the Falcons balance and allowed Ryan to run play-action to perfection. When the Bears sent the rush at Ryan, he was able to hand the ball off for some effective draw plays. Of course, you have to run the ball more when you're banged up at receiver, but establishing more of a run game will only help the Falcons moving forward, especially when it comes to keep quarterbacks such as Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees off the field.

TROUBLING TREND: Injuries, for sure. Besides Jones with the hamstring, the Falcons played without starting safety Ricardo Allen (hyperextended elbow), starting right tackle Kaleb McGary (MCL), starting linebacker Foye Oluokun (hamstring), starting defensive end Takk McKinley (groin). Not to mention starting cornerback A.J. Terrell

 

 

 

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