FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Falcons coach Dan Quinn believes in the law of averages evening out.
After watching his team struggle to score touchdowns for two years in the red zone, Quinn finally got some relief in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 35-28 win at Oakland.
It looked disastrous for a couple of seconds when Matt Ryan’s hard, short pass to Tevin Coleman ricocheted high into air. But receiver Justin Hardy pulled in the ball for a go-ahead TD, and the sideline dynamic changed.
Ryan had thrown an end-zone interception in the third quarter. Another red-zone meltdown could’ve been devastating.
In Monday’s team meeting, Quinn credited the difference in playing with awareness, a high motor and for each other.
“As a player that’s one of the things you totally control — how hard ?you go at it, how hard you’re willing to bring it for your guys,” Quinn said. “Can you show that kind of toughness and determination? I was really pleased with the toughness of the guys.”
Hardy’s 8-yard catch was one example. Safety Kemal Ishmael made a fourth-down tackle in the middle of the final period to set up Atlanta’s last touchdown. Tight ends Jacob Tamme, Austin Hooper and Levine Toilolo combined for 10 catches, 180 yards and a touchdown.
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 139 yards rushing and a TD on 29 carries. Ryan passed for 396 yards and two additional touchdowns and ran for a 2-point conversion. All-Pro receiver Julio Jones caught five passes for 106 yards and a TD.
There are plenty of areas to clean up. Quinn said the defense missed 10 tackles, four on Oakland’s final scoring drive. A penalty for having 12 men on the field negated a punt and extended a possession that led to a Raiders score.
Cornerback Robert Alford intercepted a pass in the end zone, but the play was negated because he pushed off the receiver. The defense allowed four runs of at least 14 yards and hit quarterback Derek Carr only three times.
“It’s an area I’m not pleased with,” Quinn said of the pass rush. “That part of our game has to come through. Nine times we got the quarterback off his spot yesterday. We’re a work in progress there for sure.”
Quinn was impressed, however, with how many offensive players were involved in plays on the ball. Ryan completed passes to nine different receivers. Receivers delivered on game-plan assignments to block linebackers and safeties and extend runs.
“We had some runs in yesterday that we hadn’t shown prior,” Quinn said. “It was a good look (against the Raiders).”
The Falcons (1-1) visit New Orleans (0-2) next Monday.
Notes: Jones had an MRI on his right calf but is expected to be full speed for the Saints game. Jones was hurt when two defenders fell on him after a 20-yard catch in the fourth quarter. He did not play on Atlanta’s final possession. … Rookie LB De’Vondra Campbell (ankle) did not make the trip after getting hurt in practice last Friday. Quinn said it’s too early to give a timetable on his return. Sean Weatherspoon started in Campbell’s spot. … Rookie SS Keanu Neal (knee) will be limited when the team returns to practice Thursday. Neal, the NFL’s No. 17 overall draft pick, has been sidelined since the third week of preseason.