FLOWERY BRANCH — Coach Dan Quinn knows the Atlanta Falcons have some significant problems to figure out as they enter the final four weeks of the season.
The Falcons have blown a fourth-quarter lead in their last four losses. They have injuries to several starters. They missed opportunities on three of six red-zone possessions in Sunday’s 29-28 loss to Kansas City.
And their defense has given up an opening-drive touchdown in six straight games.
Even with all of the issues, Atlanta (7-5) still clings to a tie for the NFC South lead with Tampa Bay, and Quinn likes his team’s position.
“We know exactly what we stand for and exactly what we control,” he said Monday. “There’s a lot of fun football in front of us, and we’re looking forward to that, I can promise you.”
Quinn will wait until Wednesday, the first day of practice this week, to project the status of All-Pro receiver Julio Jones and two other starters, receiver Mohamed Sanu and left tackle Jake Matthews for Sunday’s game at the Rams.
Jones has turf toe, Sanu has a sore groin and Matthews left Sunday’s game with a knee injury. The Falcons have lost their best defender, cornerback Desmond Trufant, to a season-ending pectoral injury, and it’s still uncertain when defensive end Adrian Clayborn will return from a torn medial collateral knee ligament.
Against Kansas City, safety Keanu Neal struggled against tight end Travis Kelce, who finished the game with eight catches for 140 yards. Neal is one of three rookie starters on defense. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell had a tough day, too.
Special teams ace Eric Weems took a bad angle that could’ve held the Chiefs’ fake punt return to a long gain instead of a 55-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“As a team, we missed nine tackles,” Quinn said. “Any time you’re up to the double-digit number, that’s a lot.”
The game’s two crushing plays were a pair of interceptions by Eric Berry that turned into nine Chiefs’ points. His 99-yard return on a 2-point conversion, which have the Chiefs the lead and turned out to be the last score of the game, was a bad read by quarterback Matt Ryan.
But in the first half, the Falcons had to settle for field goals in the red zone and were stopped in the third quarter on fourth-and-one at the 10 when Ryan’s pass to running back Devonta Freeman fell short.
“Those are the things, as it gets down closer, you’ve got to be even better on the details,” Quinn said. “That leads us in to the 2-point play where we had an opportunity at the end of the game. They were playing a certain coverage, and our read should’ve taken us to another spot.”
There’s also concern that Jones, who leads the NFL in yards receiving for the second straight year, isn’t getting enough focus in the red zone. Jones has only five touchdowns this year, so Quinn said offensive coordinator Kyle Shahanan are still working on ways to get him open.
“When we move down closer, they certainly know where (No.) 11 is, and some of the doubles go to him,” Quinn said.
“That was certainly one of the coverages we expecting there at the end. When you do get a double on one person, (the tight end) becomes open.”