ATLANTA (AP) — Dan Quinn brushes off any suggestion that he's starting to feel some heat.
That might change if the Atlanta Falcons don't turn things around.
Coming off a dismal 28-12 loss at Minnesota in the season opener, the Falcons coach has now lost 11 of his last 18 games going back to the playoffs at the end of the 2017 season. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL, Quinn taking this team to the Super Bowl has become a rapidly fading memory.
"There's nothing pressure-wise that would be more than we normally feel because of all the people in that locker room, all the fans — we're doing it for everybody," Quinn said. "We want to make sure we do it right. So when we miss the mark like we did, yeah, it stings. It stings bad."
The Falcons (0-1) have a chance to change the narrative Sunday night when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) in the home opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But it's clear that Year 5 of Quinn's tenure is crucial.
Owner Arthur Blank expects results after spending hundreds of millions of dollars locking up key players such as quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones. Blank is undoubtedly mindful that his other team, Atlanta United, won a Major League Soccer championship last December in only their second year of existence.
The Falcons have been around since 1966 but have never won a title, their closest call coming at the end of the 2016 season when they infamously squandered a 28-3 lead to New England in the Super Bowl.
"You want to do right ... but not any more than any other time," Quinn said. "That's our bond to Arthur, that's our bond to the city that we want to put out and do right by them, so they have a team that we're all proud of."
Some things to watch for when the Falcons host the Eagles in prime time:
Darren Sproles, Jordan Howard and rookie Miles Sanders combined for 116 yards rushing on 26 carries in Week 1 against Washington, helping the Eagles rally from a 17-point deficit for a 32-27 win. Coach Doug Pederson prefers to rotate his backs and likes to take advantage of mismatches, so it's likely he'll continue mixing it up.
The Eagles should have opportunities to run more against Atlanta. The Vikings gashed the Falcons for 172 yards on the ground. "Obviously, the Vikings did a great job in the run game," Pederson said. "But they're going home, they're going to play in front of their crowd. It's going to be a different atmosphere for us, and it's going to be a different team that we're going to see."
QUESTIONS UP FRONT
The Falcons struggled mightily on offense in their loss to the Vikings and are still trying to sort out things on the offensive line. First-round pick Chris Lindstrom went down with a broken foot and is expected to miss at least eight weeks, forcing Jamon Brown to take over at right guard after he was beaten out for the left guard spot by James Carpenter during the preseason. "Of course I wanted to start," Brown said. "Now, it's here. My opportunity is here. I've got to make the most of it."
Atlanta is also using a rotation at right tackle with rookie Kaleb McGary and Matt Gono. McGary will eventually be the full-time starter, but he's still working himself into game condition after undergoing a heart procedure during training camp. "It's going to take some time to catch up," he said. "But when I do catch up, no one is going to be more excited about it than me."
TIGHTENING UP THE COVERAGE
The Eagles finished 30th against the pass last season and showed no signs of improvement in Week 1. Washington's Case Keenum threw for 380 yards against a suspect secondary that didn't get much help from the pass rush. The defense only sacked Keenum once and gave him way too much time to throw. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz doesn't blitz much, so he relies on the front four to get pressure on quarterbacks. When they don't, the secondary is expected to do more.
"We needed to cover better to be able to get the pass rush home," Schwartz said. "We can do better certainly in pass rush, but I think in coverage we can make the quarterback hold the ball a little longer and buy time for our guys to get home."
FLY, DESEAN, FLY
DeSean Jackson shows no signs of slowing down at age 32, giving the Eagles' offense yet another weapon in the deep passing game. He caught eight passes for 154 yards in his first game back in Philadelphia since being cut by former coach Chip Kelly following his third Pro Bowl season in 2013. "They've got a lot of different weapons," Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant said.
While Jackson had a huge game, Jones was merely a blip in the Falcons' offense after an offseason dominated by protracted negotiations for a new contract. The two sides reached agreement on a three-year, $66 million extension just 24 hours before the season opener. Then Jones was held to 31 yards on six catches by the Vikings, his longest play covering 10 yards. The Falcons will be looking for Jones to a play a much bigger role in this game.