No pointing fingers: Falcons have to fix issues on both sides

CLEVELAND -- The 92-yard touchdown run the Atlanta Falcons surrendered in the third quarter to Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb could have been viewed as the biggest blunder of them all.

Maybe it was, but Julio Jones didn't dissect Sunday's implosion in such fashion.

Rather than point fingers at the defense following the Falcons' stinging 28-16 loss to the Browns, Jones spoke about what the offense could have done better to prevent such an embarrassing outcome.

"We've got to do a better job, offensively," Jones said. "They played a lot of two high the whole game. We just have to find ways to go out there and attack Cover 2. If we don't, we're going to get it for the remainder of the season. So it's on us to go out there and make something happen."

Jones didn't say it specifically, but everyone knows the Falcons will go only as far as the offense will take them the final seven games. They're 4-5 right now after the Browns broke their three-game winning streak -- and their spirits -- yet they remain in the hunt because you never know what's going to happen in the NFC any given week.

In three of their four road losses, the Falcons have scored 17 points or less. Against the Browns, they had just three red zone opportunities and converted two of them. They got stuffed by the Browns on a goal-line stand and were 1-for-6 on plays from the Browns' 1-yard line, with the lone conversion a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to Jones.

There were a couple 30-yard pass plays from Ryan to Jones and rookie Calvin Ridley. Still, this wasn't the same explosive offense that had folks signing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian's praises after last week's 38-point outburst at Washington. Going 5-for-14 on third down certainly didn't help matters.

"I wouldn't say it's flat," Jones said of his team not scoring in the first quarter against the Browns. "We didn't attack Cover 2 the way we're supposed to today. That's all. We went out there, we competed. They were the better team today. But we're a better ballclub than that."

Browns coach Gregg Williams typically plays an aggressive man-to-man scheme, but Williams made it clear he wanted to "stay on top" of Jones. The whole premise behind the Cover 2 defense is to rush four, drop seven into coverage, and take away vertical routes, forcing the ball underneath. Running four verticals is a Cover 2 beater.

The Falcons simply didn't find the way to consistently combat the zone defense, and not have great success in the run game (71 yards on 19 carries) didn't help the cause. Plus the Falcons are likely to see more "Tampa 2" next week with Rod Marinelli, the defensive coordinator in Dallas, using that zone defense as his staple over the years.

Whatever happens against the Cowboys, the Falcons have a variety of issues to correct after watching the film. Of course Ryan figured the offense would have better success in short-yardage scoring situations. He even said one of those plays was supposed to be a quarterback sneak, but the officials took too long get things lined up and then the Browns picked up a penalty.

"We fell short and did not make enough plays when we needed to," Ryan said. "We didn't play up to the standard that we are capable of playing."

The Falcons can't have turnovers, like wide receiver Mohamed Sanu did with a fumble that resulted in a Browns touchdown. On defense, they can't miss tackles, like they did on Chubb's 92-yard run with Damontae Kazee missing an opportunity to bring down Chubb and Duke Riley being in the right spot but getting blocked on the play. And they have to get more pressure on the quarterback, particularly with the recent addition of Bruce Irvin. The Falcons had no sacks and no quarterback hits on Browns rookie QB Baker Mayfield, who completed his first 13 passes.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn was fairly blunt in his assessment.

"I told the team I thought we took a step back," Quinn said. "That's tough to see and tough to say. I also told them we must regroup. We're trying to fight our ass off for consistency. And we certainly have made improvement over the last three weeks, and we didn't get the job done today, and certainly have lost some of that consistency that we've been building towards."

Guys were ticked off in the locker room. Some players didn't even want to address the media because they were so upset. Maybe that's a good thing moving forward.

"We're better that what we put out there today," Ryan said. "You are what you put out there week in and week out, and you're only as good as your last performance. And today was not good enough for us."