Falcons owner calls out team after onside kick fail: They didn’t understand the rules

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn might insist that his players know the rules regarding onside kicks after their stunning failure against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, but team owner Arthur Blank isn’t buying it.

Blank — speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday after the team’s 40-39 loss to the Cowboys — said the play spoke for itself.

His players “clearly” didn’t understand the rules and what they needed to do.

“Clearly on the last play of the game yesterday our players, you know, didn’t do what they either were instructed to do and they didn’t understand it, or, it’s clear, though, they didn’t, in my view, they didn’t clearly understand what the rules were and exactly what they had to do,” Blank said, via ESPN. “I think that’s demonstrated when you watch the video of it.”

Blank contradicts Quinn

The Cowboys rallied from a 20-point hole by scoring 16 points in the final 5:02 of the game on Sunday at AT&T Stadium, and did so with perhaps one of the craziest endings in a regular-season game in recent memory.

Dallas kicker Greg Zuerlein, with the team down two points with less than two minutes left, dribbled an onside kick past five different Falcons players — all of whom just watched the ball go by — before the Cowboys recovered it, which set up the winning field goal just plays later.

Despite the embarrassing mistake, Quinn defended his players with a long-winded response on Sunday and again on Monday.

“I think they definitely know [the rules],” he said on Sunday. “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.”

To be clear, though, the ball didn’t “high hop” and no player initiated the “transfer in and go to” the ball. Falcons players just watched it slowly roll past them until it was way too late.

After their 0-2 start, Blank knows there’s a lot that they need to correct. Still, he’s trying to stay optimistic.

“Well, you think about, do you want to respond out of doing something that’s immediate and respond out of disappointment, that sadness, maybe anger, frustration, which all of our fans felt, and I understand why,” Blank said, via ESPN. “Or think about, ‘How do we correct this? There’s 14 more games to play in the season. We have a lot of games left to play.’

“There are certain aspects of our performance in the first two games which have been really good. Some other parts have not been good. Clearly our defense is not playing at the level we want to see it play at.”

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank
Even Arthur Blank isn’t buying Dan Quinn’s claims that the Falcons know how an onside kick works after their embarrassing mistake against the Cowboys. (AP/Brynn Anderson)

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