After going 8-8 in his first season, Dan Quinn has the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998, this after cruising past Green Bay, 44-21, in the NFC Championship on Sunday.
“Dan Quinn has done a great job of keeping the main thing the main thing,” Falcons assistant head coach Raheem Morris said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “We got a process that we do here. We go through our process weekly. That thing will never change. There’s never going to be a bigger stage than people make it. It’s always going to be the same stage for us. We won’t make it bigger than it is.”
Matt Ryan is a big reason why the Falcons are playing the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Ryan was stellar in his second season under Kyle Shanahan, going from 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions to 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“It’s about the ball,” Morris said. “We’ve done a great job protecting the ball, we’ve done a great job of training each other in practice, our guys have done a great job of owning that, our guys on defense have done a great job of getting it back to us, and the guys have really flourished under Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Being in the second year with this guy, they’ve just got such a bond together that goes so further than football. It’s unbelievable to watch these guys work on a weekly basis. To be on this side of the ball this year has been a treat for myself as well.”
Julio Jones, meanwhile, was unstoppable against Green Bay, hauling in nine catches for 180 yards and two scores, including a beastly 73-yard touchdown catch-and-run that was Marshawn Lynch-like.
“To watch this man grow, he understands defense,” Morris said. “He understands what they’re trying to do with him. He understands how he needs his teammates. Yesterday, Mohamed Sanu really lit things up and got things going. They changed some of the coverage, they had to go stop and play the run a little bit on Freeman and Coleman. That opened him up a little bit, and when you open him up a little bit, he takes full advantage of it, and he did that yesterday. But his understand of how the game comes to him and how he dictates the game with his body and his movement, it’s really the biggest difference that I’ve seen throughout this year.”
Atlanta went 7-3 in its final season in the Georgia Dome and gave Falcons fans a pair of playoff blowouts over Seattle and Green Bay.
“I’ve never heard the dome that loud,” Morris said. “The last three weeks or so it’s been just phenomenal in that place. We sent it out the right way. It’s going to be the last game played in there from a football standpoint. I think we went out the right way.”
The Falcons are now vying for their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history – and they must do so with the knowledge that Kyle Shanahan is likely headed out the door. The 49ers are reportedly very interested in making Shanahan their head coach.
Morris, however, said that the Falcons are only focused on the task at hand.
“The only fight that matters is the one that you’re in, and the only fight that we’re in this week is with the New England Patriots,” he said. “So that’s the only fight that matters. You’re going to drift. It’s human nature. If somebody’s drifting, we bring each other back. I can go to Kyle Shanahan and bring up a play that we got to talk about, and that keeps you right on pace. If he sees me drifting, thinking about what the future may hold, then he brings me back. That’s how we keep that direction going in the right way. There’s only one fight that matters, and it’s the one that’s this week.”
Morris said that Atlanta isn’t focused on beating Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Rather, it’s focused on playing its best brand of football.
“At the end of the day, no matter who we’re playing, it’s always going to come back to us,” Morris said. “It’s all about us, and it’s always going to come back to the ball. We got to find a way to keep the ball in our hands, and we got to find a way to get the ball off those guys. That’s generally what determines who wins and loses in this league. We’ll try to find a way to do that.”