All the big numbers from Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Matt Ryan couldn’t make Dan Quinn a winner in his first season as Atlanta Falcons coach.
At first glance it seemed Quinn had an enviable offensive mix. Jones had one of the biggest seasons of any wide receiver with the second-most catches and yards receiving in a season in NFL history. Freeman was one of only seven 1,000-yard rushers in the league, finishing fifth in total yards from scrimmage. Ryan topped 4,000 yards passing for the fifth straight year.
Quinn appeared bound for a debut season to remember when the Falcons started 5-0 and 6-1. Atlanta looked like a postseason lock before losing seven of eight games, including six straight.
A last-second 20-17 loss to New Orleans on Sunday left the Falcons 8-8.
Quinn said the Falcons had enough talent to be a playoff team, but were stopped by 30 turnovers. The Falcons were 7-2 when having more takeaways than giveaways, but 1-6 when losing that battle.
“We truly did have the talent,” Quinn said, adding “the mindset” on turnovers “is not there yet.”
Ryan, 30, had an alarming decline under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He threw 16 interceptions, the second most of his career. His 21 touchdown passes were his low since his 2008 rookie season.
Most disturbing were Ryan’s uncharacteristic poor decisions, including his short pass in traffic that was intercepted to set up the Saints’ winning field goal on Sunday. That led some to wonder if he was comfortable in Shanahan’s scheme.
Quinn, who has the final say on all football operations matters, indicated any decisions on his staff could come later in the week.
Quinn said Atlanta needed more explosive plays on offense and more big plays, including sacks, on defense.
Top draft pick Vic Beasley Jr. showed promise at times, including against Carolina on Dec. 27, when his sack and forced fumble helped the Falcons spoil the Panthers’ perfect season. Cornerback Desmond Trufant is another player Quinn can build a defense around. More help is needed.
“Some people call it the swag,” Quinn said, referring to the attitude shown by his leaders when he was defensive coordinator in Seattle before taking the Atlanta job. “Yeah, we’re not there yet.”
Here are some things to know about the Falcons as they begin preparing for Quinn’s second season:
DUAL-THREAT BACK: With 73 catches for 578 yards, Freeman was dangerous as a runner and receiver in his breakout season. He ran for 1,061 yards with 11 touchdowns, giving the Falcons their first 1,000-yard rusher since Michael Turner in 2011.
NO SACK ATTACK — AGAIN: The Falcons finished last in the NFL with 19 sacks despite making Beasley the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. Beasley had four sacks to lead yet another dismal Falcons pass rush. Atlanta has ranked no better than 28th in sacks since 2012.
JULIO’S BIG YEAR: Jones’ 136 catches for 1,871 yards each rank second in the NFL single-season records. He passed San Francisco’s Jerry Rice, who had been second with 1,848 yards in 1995. Only Detroit’s Calvin Johnson has had more yards, with 1,964 in 2012.
Marvin Harrison had a record 143 receptions in 2002.
Jones said his place in the NFL records means “nothing” because “we didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish.”
RODDY’S FUTURE: Roddy White, who still holds most of the Falcons’ career receiving records, was only fourth on the team with 43 catches, his fewest since his second season in 2006. He said he’s not ready to retire. His four-year contract continues through 2017.
“I’m going to be a Falcon next year, and we’re going to roll from there,” White said.
LINE CHANGES: Such draft failures as Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes, selected in the second and third round, respectively, in 2012, left the Falcons reaching for veteran help on the offensive line before and during the season. Andy Levitre was acquired 10 days before the season and Jake Long was added during the season.
The changes on the line continued to the last game. Gino Gradkowski, also added just before the season, made his only start at center.