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Atlanta Falcons look revitalized under Dan Quinn

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ATLANTA -- Take just one step outside the doors of Gate D at the Georgia Dome and soak in the panorama on the left-hand side. It is a blur of budding metal, steel, dirt, construction vehicles and chain-link fences that will one day be the new hyper-modern home of the Atlanta Falcons.

This represents a risk in the NFL; a guarantee that, for more than a decade to come, fans will respond to a product, general managers will respond to the rapid trends and variations of the league and players will respond to coaches, leading to wins. The risk heightens when that new coach is hired on a five-year deal that will bridge the gap between a legendary old stadium and the next one to come.

On Monday night, that coach, Dan Quinn, stood on the sidelines after knocking out the Eagles in a hard-fought 26-24 victory and tried not to cry. Safety William Moore approached him in a quiet moment and offered his heartfelt congratulations, something Moore had wanted to do since the moment Quinn walked in the door and lifted the Falcons out of an emotional cellar.

He was moments away from bursting into a frenzied locker room and congratulating everyone for playing the way a team does when they care about one another. Maybe, in that moment, he realized how much his players cared about him.

"I couldn't be more proud of this team for fighting for coach Quinn," Moore said. "It shows how we feel about him as a coach. We want to make sure we get the win for him, man." He added: "It's a new environment around here, a new feeling. We had to let the lost seasons go and we're excited about this season."

From a tactical standpoint, Quinn oversaw a brilliant array of pressure packages to start the game. He wasn't scared to run an undersized pass rusher in Vic Beasley right at All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters, just like he wasn't scared to hurl his most athletic linebackers into the backfield to blow up a shotgun handoff.

Philadelphia trailed 20-3 at halftime and was momentarily stunned. The Eagles had punts on their first four drives and negative nine rushing yards at the end of the first quarter. After 30 minutes, Sam Bradford completed 15 of 27 passes without a touchdown. DeMarco Murray had four carries for negative four yards and explosive rookie Nelson Agholor got just a single target, with no catches. Meanwhile, Julio Jones was closing in on 100 yards.

Quinn also weathered the most terrifying moment a team experiences when facing the Eagles: The start of the third quarter when a better conditioned unit comes out with a brand new game plan -- in this case, a breakneck series of screens, sweeps and quick passes over the middle to some of the best receiving and after-the-catch running backs in football.

"We certainly knew that, and they have such a unique style about their play, they're really committed," Quinn said. "That's one of the things I respect most about Chip and their staff -- they don't back down. We knew we'd have our hands full all through the game.

"...You can't necessarily simulate it, but you have to have your fingers in the grass ready to attack and that is certainly our mindset."

The celebration lasted less than half an hour. By the time the Falcons' locker room was open to reporters, the noise peaked at a conversational level. Offensive tackle Jake Matthews said it was a cacophony of Quinn's favorite phrases about competition and "gettin' after it."

Though it was short lived, the momentary impact was not entirely lost on the organization. Owner Arthur Blank, the man orchestrating the blur of metal, steel and dirt next door, took his customary front-row seat at postgame news conference. He was stationed all the way on the left side of the room, making small talk before his new head coach walked in.

Blank got quiet when Quinn reached the microphone and listened to his biggest investment talking about timely defense and Jones, who, along with franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, came alive again under Kyle Shanahan's new offense.

For Blank, it was only a single win, one step of thousands to ensuring that he can fill the place next door in two years, but it felt good.

He got up out of his chair and gave Quinn a hug.

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