FLOWERY BRANCH — Dan Quinn isn’t buying into the popular belief that close losses hurt more than runaway defeats.
Not after Sunday’s 38-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The latest entry in the Atlanta Falcons’ six-game losing streak brought new levels of pain and frustration for Quinn, the first-year coach.
The Falcons had lost five straight games by an average of 4.2 games before being embarrassed by the undefeated Panthers.
Quinn said Monday the lopsided loss felt “way worse.”
“No doubt, we’ve been in a bunch of close games that went back and forth,” he said. “This was the first time that we got our tails kicked in.”
The Falcons (6-7) are in danger of being eliminated from playoff contention as they prepare for a third straight road game at Jacksonville. The Jaguars (5-8) are competing for the AFC South lead.
Falling below .500 was especially humbling for the Falcons, who were 6-1.
Perhaps most troubling in Sunday’s loss were the first signs of a lack of discipline and effort on the field.
Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, obviously upset, had to be pulled away from and defensive line coach Bryan Cox.
Cornerback Robert Alford stopped running when beaten by Ted Ginn Jr. on a 74-yard touchdown catch. Also, offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder was pulled following a personal foul penalty.
Quinn said he met with Hageman, Cox and Alford.
He called the confrontation between Hageman and Cox “two emotional guys’ disagreement.”
“That was one that I handled in-house with both of them,” Quinn said. He said they are “both top-notch guys” and Cox was “obviously looking out for him.”
Added Quinn: “At no point is that going to be part of our football. I talked to both of them about it.”
Quinn said Alford “certainly did” stop running on Ginn’s long touchdown catch.
“(Alford) thought he stepped out,” Quinn said. “We are all about finishing and so that one was difficult for him and for us.”
Quinn, who noted Alford saved the Falcons’ win over Washington on Oct. 11 with an interception, said he had not lost confidence in the cornerback.
“I have all the faith and belief in him,” Quinn said. “The fact he didn’t play like he was capable of on that particular play and a couple others, that was a conversation we actually had for sure.”
Alford also dropped an interception in the game.
Quinn said he replaced Schraeder with Jake Long following a penalty but said the move wasn’t permanent.
Quinn said among the developments against Carolina that “jacked me up and ticked me off” were getting beat on both lines of scrimmage and failing to have balance on offense.
Running back Devonta Freeman had a 22-yard gain on his second carry but finished with only 40 yards on 12 carries.
The Falcons’ offense became one-dimensional after the Panthers took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
“I know what we’re capable of playing like and when we don’t, man it digs at you hard,” Quinn said, adding he could not wait to work on improvements in Wednesday’s practice.
“I’m as motivated to get our football right as I’ve ever been my entire life,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back out here with this team.”