In just his second season ever as a head coach, Dan Quinn has led his team to a Super Bowl and despite coming up through the ranks on the luster of his defensive accomplishments, the Falcons have a chance to compete for the Lombardi Trophy largely because of their league-leading offense. Making it to the Super Bowl in your first playoffs as a head coach is an impressive feat but what’s even more impressive is that this will be Quinn’s third appearance in the NFL’s biggest game in the last four seasons, as he was the man who orchestrated the defense for the 2013 and 2014 Seattle Seahawks.
Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at what Quinn threw at the Patriots in Super Bowl 49 in which the Legion of Boom held Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to 14 points until a disastrous fourth quarter, how Quinn’s defenses have performed in the regular season compared with how they’ve played in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, and what he’s done to limit the effectiveness of opposing quarterbacks in the playoffs.
Super Bowl 49
The one blemish on this rising star’s resume. The one time a quarterback has beaten a Dan Quinn-coached defense in the eight playoff games he’s been a defensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL. Seattle started out the game on the right foot – but the wrong hand. Jeremy Lane picked off a Tom Brady pass in the red zone with the score tied 7-7, but came down hard on his wrist when he was tackled and actually broke it. This forced the ’Hawks to change their secondary coverage and it ultimately led to the Patriots putting 21 more points on the board and 14 unanswered in the fourth.
Even still, Seattle had a chance to pull the game out at the end but Pete Carroll, put very simply, flubbed the final play call. Fair play to Malcolm Butler, though, it was a nice catch.
Defense is Dan
Overall, Dan Quinn-coached teams are 7-1 in their last eight playoff games and could be a perfect 8-0 if Carroll hadn’t decided to make the foolhardy decision to throw the ball on the goal-line instead of handing it off to the man they called Beast Mode. That said, Quinn’s defenses have always performed admirably with the pressure on and the 28 points the ’Hawks gave up to the Pats in 2014 were the most given up by a defense coached in part by the Morristown, New Jersey native in his last eight playoff games.
Not only have Quinn defenses been good recently, they’ve improved from the regular season to the playoffs. When he was with the Seahawks, his team averaged 14.5 points against per game in the playoffs and 15.5 in the regular season. With the Falcons, his newest team is allowing a little under five fewer points in the postseason than it did in the regular season this year.
It’s true that Quinn is not the one calling the plays on defense anymore with Richard Smith coordinating the D-unit but he still – obviously – has a massive influence on the structure of the defense and the game plan going into his Super Bowl rematch against Tom and Bill.
Murderers’ Row of QB’s Sent to Death row by Dan
What’s even more impressive about Quinn’s defenses improving in the playoffs is the insane list of quarterbacks they've done it against, which includes Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick – when he was good. Brady is the only signal-caller on that list to best a Quinn-coached defense but there are three other future Hall of Famers on there that Quinn made look like backups.
It’s an incredible statistic that Quinn has held these quarterbacks to a 15-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio and if he can get Brady to turn the ball over, like he’s done to everyone but Drew Brees, the Falcons will likely win. Matt Ryan will be a great benefit to Atlanta’s defense as he just refuses to give the ball away. The Dirty Birds have the best giveaway-takeaway margin in the NFL and are 10-0 in their last 10 when Matty Ice doesn't throw a pick.
The man who will helm the Pats offense on Sunday is the only QB who has really gotten to a Dan Quinn defense in the playoffs but now that the Falcons HC has played against Brady, will he be able to throw in enough wrinkles to slow him down? That’s really where this game will be won or lost for the Falcons, but the 3-22 record head coaches have in their first game going head-to-head with Bill Belichick since 2010 is one that’s more than a little intimidating.
Here’s the breakdown of how QB’s have performed against Quinn’s defenses: