“OK, we will begin. Last night I was ugh, I was more pissed off than I’ve been in a long time. And we’ve had tough losses.”
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn didn’t hold back when he addressed reporters on the Monday following a 28-12 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1.
“If you had to have a 0-1, the teacher in me said you better apply the lessons… There were a lot of lessons.”
Quinn certainly has a lot of work to do in order to turn the page following last week’s loss.
Atlanta was thoroughly dominated in all three phases in its loss to Minnesota.
Now Quinn will try to accelerate his team’s learning curve in order to have the Falcons ready for their home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football (7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT TSN3, TSN5, CTV2).
The biggest improvement will need to come from an Atlanta offensive line that was manhandled by a talented Vikings front.
Matt Ryan was pressured more than any quarterback that isn’t named Matthew Stafford or Mitch Trubisky in Week 1.
The four-time Pro Bowler was under duress on 20 of his 52 dropbacks.
Ryan was sacked four times and completed just 8-of-16 pass attempts with two interceptions when pressured.
As if the situation wasn’t bad enough already, the Falcons lost rookie first-round pick guard Chris Lindstrom for eight weeks to a foot injury.
Backup Jamon Brown will slide in at right guard beside another rookie first-round pick in right tackle Kaleb McGary, who is coming off a rough performance against Minnesota.
On the other side of the ball, veteran left tackle Jake Matthews absolutely needs to be better after giving up five pressures and a pair of sacks attempting to protect Ryan’s blind side.
Meanwhile, Atlanta also needs more from its star wide receiver Julio Jones, who was recently made the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL when he signed a thre-year, $66 million extension.
After leading the league with 1,677 receiving yards and hauling in eight touchdowns last season, Jones certainly deserved to get paid.
In fact, Jones holds the NFL’s all-time record for the highest average receiving yards per game entering this week.
However, he was held to just six catches for 31 yards and a late score on 11 targets against Minnesota.
Jones knows he absolutely needs to be better versus Philadelphia.
The good news for Falcons fans is that Jones has dominated the Eagles throughout his career.
The six-time Pro Bowler has an opportunity to become just the second player in NFL history to record six straight 100-plus yard performances against a single opponent this weekend. Last year against Philadelphia, Jones went off with 10 catches for 169 yards.
However, Jones’ production against the Eagles hasn’t translated into successful results for Atlanta.
The Falcons have lost each of their last three meetings with Philadelphia dating back to 2009, when they spoiled Michael Vick’s return to Atlanta.
Atlanta will need more than just a big game from Jones if they are going to avoid a 0-2 start.
Another big concern for Quinn is the way in which his defence was gashed by the Minnesota rushing attack in Week 1.
The Falcons gave up 4.52 yards per carry as Dalvin Cook and company went for 172 rushing yards and three scores on just 38 carries.
The Eagles don’t have an elite workhorse running back like Cook. However, the trio of Darren Sproles, Jordan Howard and rookie Miles Sanders are more than capable of putting up big numbers if Quinn’s defence doesn’t do a better job of making stops up front. That running back stable combined for 116 rushing yards on 26 carries in last week’s 32-27 win over the Washington Redskins.
In addition to their run game, Philadelphia can also stretch the Atlanta defence vertically with Alshonn Jeffery and key off-season addition DeSean Jackson.
The 32-year-old Jackson, who went off for eight catches, 154 yards and two touchdowns in his return to the Eagles, was clocked running 21.4 miles per hour in last week’s victory. It was the third-fastest speed recorded by any ball carrier in the NFL in Week 1.
One week after facing only 10 pass attempts from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Falcons secondary should see a lot more action in Week 2 with Carson Wentz throwing to Jackson, Jeffery and tight end Zach Ertz.
The Falcons entered this season with the expectation that they were good enough to contend for a playoff spot in the NFC.
That could change in a hurry if Atlanta doesn’t turn things around against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football.