Dan Quinn says Falcons players knew onside kick rule, but video tells a different story

Liz Roscher
·3 min read

The Atlanta Falcons suffered a wholly incomprehensible 40-39 loss on Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys, giving up a sizable lead and biffing the recovery of a weak onside kick in the final minutes of the game to suffer quite the embarrassing defeat.

This Cowboys team looked pretty bad for most of the game, but when it counted, the Falcons were worse. The most unforgivable of their sins was completely screwing up the recovery of the Cowboys’ onside kick. While the kicking team needs to wait for the ball to roll 10 yards before they can touch it, the other team doesn’t need to wait. They can just jump on that ball as soon as they’re able.

That is not what the Falcons did. You can see in the video below that the Falcons joined with the Cowboys in waiting for the ball to roll 10 yards, tiptoeing around it even while one of their players passed within a foot of the ball!

That led to the Cowboys improbably recovering the onside kick, driving 26 yards down the field and sending kicker Greg Zurelain (the author of that onside kick) back out again to nail a 46-yard field goal for the win.

Dan Quinn says his players know the onside kick rule, but what played out in the final minutes of Sunday's game against the Cowboys tells a different story. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dan Quinn says his players know the onside kick rule, but what played out in the final minutes of Sunday's game against the Cowboys tells a different story. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Quinn: The players know the rules

Following the game, head coach Dan Quinn used a lot of words to explain to the media that his players definitely knew the rule despite visibly appearing to have no idea.

“I think they definitely know. The front three are usually blocking as you’re going in, the high bouncers go to the second side, so the front line, generally on an onside kick, they’re looking to get a block first. Then the high hop goes to the next player. When that instance happens and it’s not one that is a high hopper, then you just transfer in and go to your ball, but you’re looking at your assignment first of who you have to go block. Certainly the ball, and then your assignment. They definitely know the rule.”

That’s Quinn’s story and he’s sticking to it. However, the video speaks for itself. The onside kick wasn’t a high hopper, and no at no point did anyone “transfer and and go to your ball” until it was way too late. Ricardo Allen, wearing No. 37, got so close to the ball that he could have kicked it himself, but for some reason declined to fall onto it and instead danced out of the way so a Cowboys player could have an unimpeded route.

At various points on Sunday, the Falcons had a 26-7 lead, a 29-10 lead, and a 39-24 lead. The defense gave up plenty of points, but even with that they still had a chance to win in the final two minutes of the game. They just had to recover the onside kick, something most teams have no trouble doing.

And yet here we are, listening to Quinn make more excuses for why his players weren’t ready for a play that every single person in that stadium (and at home) knew was coming. Why don’t you watch that video a few hundred times and get back to us, Dan, because your explanation is absolutely not grounded in any reality we’re currently living in.

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