Falcons finally manage to hold on to late lead

When Raheem Morris took over as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, the odds were against him earning the full-time job. That’s true for all interim coaches.

While nobody can know how many wins the Falcons would have to bank to give Morris a legitimate interview to be hired on a permanent basis, he’s giving himself a shot.

The Falcons got another win under Morris in a rainy Thursday night game, beating the Carolina Panthers 25-17. It looked like the Falcons might blow yet another fourth-quarter lead when the Panthers had a long drive late, but Teddy Bridgewater threw an interception to Blidi Wreh-Wilson and that sealed the win.

The Falcons are still 2-6, and they had an ugly loss last week that Morris took some blame for, but it’s still progress for a team that started 0-5.

Falcons are showing improvement

Morris took over when Dan Quinn was fired following an 0-5 start. There was one horrendous loss last week, when Todd Gurley II scored when he should have taken a knee and the Detroit Lions used the extra time to win on the final play. Morris took the blame for that. That’s hard to ignore, but the way the Falcons have played under Morris is still progress. They are 2-1 and it’s hard to deny they’ve looked better.

Some fired coaches are lucky enough to get another head-coaching shot immediately. Some, like Adam Gase, don’t deserve to get that immediate second chance but get one anyway. There has been criticism that Black coaches have a much longer road back after getting fired, and Morris is an example.

Morris started 3-13 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then went 10-6 his second season. In 2011, the Bucs went 4-12 and that was it for Morris. He was fired and went all the way back down the ladder to secondary coach with Washington. He didn’t even get a shot to be a coordinator until the middle of last season, when Quinn restructured his staff and put Morris in charge of the defense. The defense improved rapidly and Morris got the defensive coordinator job for the 2020 season. Then he got a chance to lead the Falcons when they started so poorly this season.

It’s not an ideal opportunity, but it was an opportunity. And he’s doing pretty well with it, even if last week’s disaster might haunt him.

Ian Thomas of the Carolina Panthers is hit by Keanu Neal of the Atlanta Falcons. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Falcons hold on late

The Falcons didn’t have a great game on Thursday. It was hard for both teams in the rain. But they did enough to win, even without receiver Calvin Ridley, who left the game with an ankle injury in the first half. The offense put up 401 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown by Gurley, the only touchdown in the second half, was enough for Atlanta.

The Falcons defense did a good job not giving up many big plays, and especially holding down D.J. Moore, who didn’t catch his first pass until late in the fourth quarter. The Panthers had a couple of chances to tie the game, down 25-17, but the Falcons defense got the stops it needed. In the final two minutes, a big catch by D.J. Moore on third-and-17 got the Panthers into Falcons territory. But Bridgewater’s interception to Wreh-Wilson with 57 seconds left ended it. The Falcons, who have blown three fourth-quarter leads already this season, avoided another debacle.

Maybe there’s nothing Morris can do to get a fair shot at the job for 2021 and beyond. Maybe team owner Arthur Blank wants a clean sweep of the organization. All Morris can do is win games for the rest of the season. So far, he’s doing pretty well.

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