Only four NFL teams have more victories than 6-3 Atlanta.
Are the Falcons really this good under first-year head coach Dan Quinn? That question was answered with a resounding no on the road against San Francisco last Sunday.
The Falcons were bet from seven-point favorites to as high as 9.5 against the 49ers. The marketplace was fully buying into fading the 49ers, who were starting Blaine Gabbert and without their three top running backs plus wide receiver Anquan Boldin and recently traded Vernon Davis.
Atlanta was plus two in takeaways yet still managed to lose 17-16. A key reason was Quinn, who made one of the worst decisions of the season.
Quinn had Matt Bryant kick a short field goal on fourth down inside the San Francisco two-yard line with 3:00 remaining down 17-13. This call was blatantly wrong. Bryant made the kick and the Falcons never got the ball back.
Falcons Scoring Defense Mediocre at Best
This shouldn’t have been a surprise. The Falcons defense isn’t exactly a replica of Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain of the 1970s. They rank 13th in scoring defense – and their statistics are skewed by hitting the jackpot in quarterbacks they have faced. The list includes Sam Bradford in his first game as Eagles quarterback, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Mallet, Zach Mettenberger and Kirk Cousins.
Quinn shouldn’t have counted on his defense. All the 49ers needed to do was make just one first down to wrap up the victory, which they did. Quinn should have had more confidence in his top-five offense. He has Devonta Freeman, who has nine rushing touchdowns and is the second-leading rusher in the NFL, along with Matt Ryan and superstar receiver Julio Jones.
But he didn’t. Even if the Falcons were stopped on fourth down, they still would have the 49ers pinned deep in their own territory. The field goal gave the 49ers breathing room in starting field position and reduced the tension for Gabbert, who has never been known to handle pressure and a pass rush very well.
Falcons Have Been Stumbling vs the Spread
Since a 5-0 opening, the Falcons are 1-3 and 0-4 against the spread falling 36 points below point spread marketplace expectations during this span.
Quinn brought life to the Falcons early in the season. Now his horrendous decision has cast seeds of doubt.