Falcons' defense 'put it all together,' growing under Raheem Morris

Raheem Morris is a defensive-minded coach. That much is clear. His future as the Atlanta Falcons' potential full-time head coach is still muddled, however.

Sunday’s 43-6 blowout of the Las Vegas Raiders was the clearest sign yet that Morris’ defense is playing for him -- in a manner of speaking.

Besides forcing five turnovers -- three strip sacks of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, a pick-six and a forced fumble on running back Josh Jacobs -- the Falcons had five sacks.

“I feel like everybody has taken notice,” said defensive lineman Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, who had two fumble recoveries to go with his forced fumble, sack and five tackles. “The defense has taken a step forward these past couple weeks. It is a good feeling. We all trust each other with our jobs. It is just a good feeling to be out there and flying around with each other.

“I cannot thank anyone else but my teammates. They made that happen. The coaches had a great game plan going into the game. All thanks to them. They created the opportunity for me to go out there and help out the team. Once again, it is a team effort on everything.”

Linebacker Deion Jones, meanwhile, added a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the Falcons a 23-3 lead early in the third quarter.

“As a defense and a team, we put it all together,” said Jones, who had five tackles. “We played well together. We finally put one on film. We have one to look at and to grow from.”

The Falcons entered the game ranked 29th overall on defense and 31st against the pass, and they still forced Carr into his worst game of the season, a team-wide performance that Carr called “trash.”

Carr was replaced early in the fourth quarter by Nate Peterman, essentially for Carr’s safety.

Morris and Falcons defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich had a great plan working against the Raiders.

“He is always on us, making sure we are locked in and working on our details,” Jones said of Ulbrich. “He is real particular about how we do things. We have to respect him for that. It shows when it translates on film.”

Then there’s this: The Falcons are 4-2 since Morris took over as interim coach following the firing of Dan Quinn.

“I love Coach Raheem,” said Falcons receiver Russell Gage, who had three catches for 34 yards on Sunday. “He definitely has a head-coach mentality. He brings a lot of energy to this team, and he does a great job in getting us up. He understands what we want and our standard in this organization. So I love him, and I love to see him here.

“Obviously, it’s not my call, but he’s a great guy and a great coach.”

Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who had Morris on his staff in Tampa Bay from 2002 through 2005 and from 2007 through 2008 before Morris replaced Gruden as the Buccaneers' head coach in 2009, also endorsed his former mentee.

Before the Falcons gave the Raiders the business, that is.

“I know he’s going to have his team ready to play,” Gruden said of Morris before the game, when Gruden also called the Falcons the best 3-7 team he had ever seen. “He wants that head-coaching job [in Atlanta], and he might just darn sure deserve it the way I know him and the way this team is playing. They’re flying around. They have a lot of talent -- this team was recently in the Super Bowl. They had a tough start. They lost some games in head-scratching fashion, but they’re still playing hard, and they’re still a formidable opponent. We have to get ready for them.”

The Falcons made any Las Vegas preparation a moot point, and they gave credence to the notion that Morris might hold on to the job.

“I definitely have the 1-0 mentality. There’s no doubt about that,” Morris said Monday when asked whether the organization has given him an update on the head-coaching position.

“The only thing that I can tell you about giving somebody an honest shot, just in life, is what they do for me on a daily basis. All I’m given is the utmost support from the highest level of the organization to the lowest level of the organization, and I don’t have to name those two. Somewhere in between, you have a bunch of people trying to do a bunch of things to get the 1-0 mentality. When you feel people trying to get the 1-0 mentality, that’s how you know how much support you get from everybody and how much support you get in the building.”