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Sunday February 23rd, 2020 6:17PM

Falcons doomed by another poor start

By George Henry
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ATLANTA (AP) — Coach Dan Quinn doesn't dispute the Atlanta Falcons had a sloppy first quarter of the season.

A 24-10 loss Sunday to Tennessee kept the Falcons (1-3) in last place in the NFC South. They had another flat start, trailing early and unable to close the gap as the mistakes piled up.

"We're nowhere near the team we can be and we're (upset) about where we're at after the first quarter like the fans are," Quinn said. "The good thing is we're the ones who get to fix it and we certainly intend on doing that."

Outscored 65-10 in the first half of their three losses, the Falcons didn't give themselves a decent chance in losing their second straight. Quarterback Matt Ryan had another early turnover, fumbling on a sack by Jurrell Casey late in the first quarter to set up a Tennessee field goal and put Atlanta in a 17-7 hole.

The miscue dropped Atlanta to minus-5 in turnover differential this season.

"We're working on it," Ryan said. "That's for sure. It's been a big point of emphasis. That was a good play by them on the turnover today. It happens sometimes in the pocket. I felt like I had two hands on it trying to move and (he) just swiped it. I've got to find a way to clean that up. Go down quicker or get it out quicker."

Not much went right for the offense. Running back Devonta Freeman gained 28 yards on 12 carries. The Falcons whiffed on their last three fourth-down chances.

The defense was embarrassed with cornerback Desmond Trufant getting burned on Marcus Mariota's first two touchdown passes. The Falcons were in zone coverage when A.J. Brown turned Trufant around in the right flats on his 55-yard catch. Trufant never looked back in a 1-on-1 matchup on Brown's 11-yard catch in the right corner of the end zone.

Cornerback Isaiah Oliver was out of position when Corey Davis caught a pass along the left sideline and scored a 23-yard TD to make it 24-7 in the second.

Special teams took a hit when Matt Bryant, usually automatic from 32 yards, hit the left upright near the end of the second quarter. The Falcons jogged toward the locker room at halftime to heavy boos from the home crowd.

"It's part of it," Ryan said. "When you're playing poorly, you're not giving them much to cheer about. You get it. We want to give them something to get loud about. To make those plays and get this place rocking, we didn't do that today. We've got to find a way to make plays to get the energy in the building going."

The Falcons announced that 72,108 tickets were distributed, but Mercedes-Benz Stadium didn't look half full at any point during the game.

Fans who stayed away didn't miss much.

Right guard Jamon Brown, starting his third straight game after Chris Lindstrom went on injured reserve, left with a head injury in the first quarter. Wes Schweitzer took his place, then moved to center in the third when Pro Bowl center Alex Mack left with an elbow injury. Mack returned one series later, but it didn't matter.

The offense ended another fruitless drive with Ryan getting sacked for the fifth time.

The Falcons have lost six straight and 12 of their past 13 games to AFC opponents. Quinn, in his fifth year as head coach, dropped to 6-13 against the AFC.

Atlanta visits Houston next week.

"We can practice as good as we want to," defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. "We've got to win the game. That's the business that we're in. We've got to put a good product on the field. We've got to find a way to get some wins. It's unfortunate that we're coming out on the wrong end of it in some games, but I feel like still have a lot ahead of us."

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