Quinn defends Sarkisian amid offensive woes

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn understands the scrutiny that comes with a struggling offense, but he was adamant in defending offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian despite those offensive woes.

“There’s a lot of really good things that Steve does, and I don’t want to lose sight of how good a football coach this guy is,” Quinn said Thursday. “And I think all of us, when you’re going through a time where you’re not producing from a points standpoint that you like, there’s a lot of factors involved.

“That, to me, is what, when I visited with him on plays and concepts and things, whether we like or don’t like, not all of them are plays.”

The Falcons, in the midst of a three-game losing streak, are averaging 21.3 points per game going into Sunday’s road matchup with the New York Jets. The Falcons led the league at 33.8 points per game last season under former coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Quinn said earlier in the week that he wished the Falcons could have back the fourth-and-1 jet sweep called during last Sunday night’s 23-7 loss to New England, a play that resulted in Taylor Gabriel being dropped for a 5-yard loss. In the same breath, Quinn said the overall play selection during the game was right, but the execution wasn’t.

Sarkisian said a couple of weeks ago that he’s still adjusting to how NFL defensive coordinators move around personnel — something he didn’t have to worry about too much while calling plays at the college level.

“I think the biggest thing about this league here is that it’s very personnel-driven in the NFL,” Sarkisian said. “Whether how we assess defenses [or] how defenses assess us, when we put a certain personnel grouping on the field, how defenses try to match that personnel grouping.

“I think a lot of times in college football, you try to get your best 11 players on the field, and then you respond through scheme on what opponents are giving you. In the National Football League, people are trying to match what you’re doing. … I think that’s a little bit of a shift. I’m not saying it’s harder or easier, but that’s just the nature of this league.”

Part of the adjustment moving forward is likely to be running the ball more, with Quinn wanting in the “high 20s” in rushing attempts per game. The Falcons have spent the majority of this week working on red zone and third-down scenarios. Quinn said more such plays were added to the practice regime to fine-tune those areas, although the additions haven’t necessarily made practice any longer.

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