Falcons Bemoan the Plays They Could Have Made

“We thought we had the opportunity to let it rip,” Quinn said of his play call on the third-and-1. “When it doesn’t go the way you want it’s easy to question that decision.”

In softer tones, Ryan also denied that the Falcons had made reckless choices with what seemed like a stable lead.

“I don’t think we were too aggressive,” Ryan said. “I’ve got to do a better job at holding onto the ball on that turnover. And I wish I could have gotten rid of that football before the sack after that.

“But I thought Kyle did a good job with the play calling.”

Quinn did raise one thoughtful counterargument to the second-guessing he was in for.

“We felt like we had to put the game away; we had to do something positive,” he said. “Don’t forget, the other team was moving the football pretty well at that point.”

And indeed, after scoring just 3 points in the first half Sunday, the Patriots roared through the second half. Brady had been hit repeatedly on almost every pass attempt in the first two quarters and was sacked twice. He had thrown an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and Atlanta had also forced a crucial fumble.

To that point, the Atlanta defense had been the runaway stars of the game and tackle Grady Jarrett, who would finish with three sacks, appeared to be a leading candidate for the game’s Most Valuable Player Award.

But as the Patriots offense found its rhythm and the pass protection around Brady improved, the falcons’ defense began to stagger and wither. Moreover, as Atlanta’s offense sputtered, the defense spent too much time on the field and clearly grew tired. The fatigue revealed itself in multiple ways, notably with poor tackling and miscommunication in the secondary.

An offense that could not remain on the field or put the game out of reach and a defense that was reeling from fatigue was a deadly combination for the Falcons.

“For sure, we ran out of gas some on defense,” Quinn said.

Ryan watched what was unfolding helplessly.

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