Atlanta Falcons First Takes: Observations from Week Four

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Matt Ryan /

The Atlanta Falcons dropped their first game of the 2017 season this past Sunday. What were the biggest takeaways from the week four loss?

After not trailing in any of their previous three contests, the Atlanta Falcons had their backs against the wall for the first time this season against the Buffalo Bills. Unfortunately, Atlanta could not prevail under such circumstances and lost a heart-breaker by the score of 23-17.

Injuries and turnover margin were the difference makers on Sunday. Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Jack Crawford were lost to injury in the first half, which added to the five players already on the injury report coming into the game.

Couple that with being negative in the turnover department for the second straight game and the Falcons could not escape defeat this week.

With the bye week now upon them, Atlanta has an entire week off to digest the loss, hoping to correct their turnover issues and get healthy in the process. Thankfully, the Falcons have been here before under head coach Dan Quinn.

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With the loss to Buffalo, Atlanta moved to 0-3 under Quinn in games leading up to a bye. If you’re wondering how they’ve fared following the bye, the Falcons are 1-1 in such contests during the Dan Quinn era.

Up next on the calendar for the Dirty Birds are the struggling Miami Dolphins. But before we look ahead to that game, we must first address this week’s Falcons First Takes.

Too Many Turnovers, Too Few Takeaways

For a team that stresses the importance of the “ball,” Quinn cannot be happy with the start the Falcons have gotten off to in that regard. Through four games, Atlanta ranks fifth worst in the league with a -4 turnover differential.

Only their upcoming opponent, the Miami Dolphins, have forced fewer takeaways than the Falcons. On the flip side, Atlanta has been equally as poor in the giveaway department, ranking in the bottom third of the league in that category.

Truthfully, the Falcons’ turnover woes have all come in the last two weeks. And to a greater extent, most of it can be chalked up to bad luck or poor officiating which is ironic when you consider the focal point of last week’s Falcons First Takes was on the string of good luck the Falcons had endured lately.

In any case, this is an area Atlanta must improve upon if they want to have success in 2017. Only the Detroit Lions (-1), New York Giants (-2), and Houston Texans (-7) made the playoffs last year with negative turnover margins.

And in the Giants’ and Texans’ cases, both had top 10 defenses to bail them out of those situations. The Falcons’ defense, on the other hand, is not quite capable yet of handling such circumstances.

Injuries Mounting

The Atlanta Falcons entered week four without the services of four starters and one key special teams contributor. After Sunday, add two more starters and another rotational player to that list.

Wide receivers Julio Jones (hip) and Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) and defensive tackle Jack Crawford (biceps) all left in the second quarter versus the Bills and did not return. In a bit of positive news, Jones’s injury is not likely to keep him out of any more game action; however, Sanu and Crawford cannot say the same.

According to reports, Sanu is scheduled to miss 2-3 weeks while Crawford’s injury will cost him his season. For a defensive line that got bullied by Buffalo, the latter presents a significant loss to an already-depleted unit.

The return of Courtney Upshaw following the bye should soften the blow; however, a roster move will be forthcoming for the Falcons nevertheless.

As for the offense, the absences of Ryan Schraeder, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu caught up with Atlanta versus Buffalo. Matt Ryan looked noticeably skittish in the pocket due to the revamped right side of the offensive line.

In addition, the void at wide receiver limited the explosiveness of the Falcons’ offense. For a team that relied on the big play a year ago, it is imperative these three return to the lineup as soon as possible.

Next: Atlanta Falcons: 3 players whose stock dropped in Week 4

When the schedule originally came out, most of Dirty Bird Nation scoffed at having such an early bye. But with injuries mounting and ball security issues to address, it could not come at a better time.

Here’s to hoping a week off is just what the doctor ordered.