HOUSTON — There’s only one way to describe the Atlanta Falcons‘ defense from Sunday: embarrassing.
Coach Dan Quinn thought he saw a renewed sense of urgency in the unit following last Sunday’s miserable first half against the Tennessee Titans. But despite the talk in the locker room about staying on the fundamentals and going out and having fun, the Falcons had some of the same defensive lapses that have plagued them through the early part of the season.
At 1-4 and losers of three games in a row, the Falcons are running out of excuses following a 53-32 road loss to the Houston Texans. The latest embarrassment included surrendering way too many chunk plays to former Falcons ball boy Deshaun Watson and the Texans’ offense. Watson had 300 passing yards before the end of the third quarter. He capped a 426-yard, five-touchdown performance with a 44-yard touchdown hookup with Will Fuller, who beat Desmond Trufant with a double move. Fuller had 14 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns against the sieve-like Falcons defense. The Falcons gave up almost 600 yards of offense (592).
It seems like someone is having a career day against the Falcons every week.
Quinn said leading into the game that he had no plans of making a change at coordinator. Of course, that was interpreted to mean with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, since Quinn calls the defense. But the latest performance makes you wonder if there’s any dramatic change that can be made to ignite the defense.
Whether it’s zone or man-to-man, nickel or base, 3-4 or 4-3, the Falcons continue to make life easy on opposing quarterbacks. They knew Watson had the potential to be much more dangerous than Marcus Mariota and Jacoby Brissett in previous weeks, and he was with his scrambling and keeping plays alive. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett did all he could to keep up, but Jarrett can’t play every position on defense by himself.
Ponder this: The Falcons gave up plays of 21-plus yards to six different Texans, including a 51-yarder and the 44-yarder.
Huge failure: That’s the way to sum up the game, because the Falcons really needed this one. They needed it from a confidence standpoint. Quinn needed it for his job security. And the Falcons, as a whole, needed to show they could win on the road. Instead, they are 0-3 on the road this season with a trip to Arizona next on the schedule.
Selling a breakout performance: At least Devonta Freeman was able to score his first touchdown of the season on a 9-yard touchdown reception from Matt Ryan. Freeman still can’t get going in the running game, but getting him in the end zone is a step in the right direction. Ito Smith is having better success than Freeman running the ball, but the Falcons won’t give up on Freeman, who was more involved in the passing game to get touches.
Promising trend: Receiver Julio Jones said leading into the game that the Falcons had the personnel to score 21 to 28 points per game. Well, they reached 30 for the first time this season. Before Sunday, the Falcons averaged a mere 17.5 points per game, which didn’t make sense based on the offensive firepower. Maybe the most promising offensive play was Ryan scoring on a quarterback sneak, showing the Falcons are capable of getting a push in short-yardage situations. But if you’re going to score 30 or more points, you have to win the game, and the Falcons didn’t.
Injury report: Safety Damontae Kazee was evaluated for a head injury and didn’t return to the game. If he misses some time, that accelerates the learning curve for rookie Kendall Sheffield, who has seen some spot action. Sheffield still has some maturing to do and picked up a key penalty in the second half.