FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Friday that "yes," he was happy with the variety in offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian's red zone playcalling despite the team going 1-for-5 in the red zone during Thursday night's 18-12 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Falcons managed just nine points on those five red zone opportunities, with a 9-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman and a 21-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. Bryant missed the extra point on Coleman's red zone score.
"I was pleased with the variety in terms of calling plays, especially down in the red zone," Quinn said Friday after watching the tape. "There's certain ones that you could do from the 5 [yard line] to the 10. When you get back, get a little bit further, you can throw over the top of somebody still. When you're down closer, obviously you can't throw over a defender anymore. Back line is good. Outside toward the pylon is good.
"So, we were pleased with 'where.' What we were not pleased with was the execution of it. That's not to say it's just players. That's all of us: getting the right design, the right training. ... Our execution will be better. I reminded the guys [Thursday] night is not going to define the year in the red zone. It just showed we've got plenty of work ahead of us to do."
Matt Ryan admitted to having a poor outing and was 1-for-8 for 3 yards in the red zone, with an interception on a ball intended for Julio Jones. He missed running back Devonta Freeman on what should have been a touchdown pass during a third-and-goal play from the Eagles' 1-yard line on the team's first series. The Falcons got the matchup they wanted after Ryan motioned Freeman out of the backfield, but the throw was off the mark.
The Falcons made cleaning up the red zone woes their primary emphasis this offseason and during the preseason, but both Jones and Freeman sat out all four preseason games to preserve their bodies for the regular season, which might have affected timing. Quinn previously expressed no regret about holding Jones and Freeman out of the preseason.
The first drive also featured the "heavy package" with three tight ends and a fullback at one point. Quinn said going with such personnel was the reason why Jones was not on the field for three plays from the 1-yard line. In fact, no receivers were on the field.
Ryan missed a throw to Jones in the game's final seconds that could have led to victory. It was a fade from an inside alignment, with Jones inside Mohamed Sanu. The goal was to free one of them up versus man-to-man coverage. Jones ran behind Sanu and got the single coverage, but Ryan's throw forced Jones too wide and out of bounds.
"Probably just us executing that play at the end, we've got to nail that," Quinn said. "We had the right [play] on. If there was a double that goes to Julio, it goes to a certain player. If there's a double that goes to Mohamed or stays where it was, it goes somewhere else. The read was correct in terms of where we wanted to go. We just didn't execute it. That's [why] we've got work to do."
Quinn said an open Sanu was missed on the second-down play during the final drive, when Ryan tried to hit a covered Jones in the end zone, with Jones working out of the slot. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Ryan is 1-of-20 over the past two seasons, including the playoffs, when targeting Jones in the end zone. Ryan also has overthrown 12 of those 20 attempts.
The Falcons did not target Calvin Ridley, the first-round draft pick from Alabama, in the red zone versus the Eagles. They ran the ball five times in the red zone for 16 yards and the Coleman score.
On one goal-line play on fourth down, fullback Ricky Ortiz did not maintain his block, allowing the defender to pull down Freeman short of the end zone. The Falcons also gave up penetration to Eagles star Fletcher Cox on a goal line play that allowed the defensive tackle to stuff Freeman.
Quinn reiterated how the red zone failures in the opener don't have to define what occurs for the duration of the season. The Falcons return to action in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers, a team they averaged 19.5 points against in two meetings last season.
Freeman, who banged a knee in Thursday's loss, said after the game that he was fine, and nothing changed following evaluations Friday. He is good to go for Week 2.