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AP file photo by Ross D. Franklin / Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn

Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez played the final five seasons of his 17-year National Football League career with the Atlanta Falcons, retiring at the close of the 2013 season.

On Sunday afternoon, speaking as a Fox Sports analyst as much as a Falcons alum, Gonzalez said of Atlanta's shocking 40-39 loss at Dallas after leading the Cowboys by 15 points with less than five minutes to play: "It's hot-seat time for (Atlanta coach) Dan Quinn. This is a gut punch to the Falcons."

That wasn't all that was said in the Fox studio after this one.

Howie Long called it "mind-boggling."

Michael Strahan added: "It seems like Atlanta always finds a way to lose these kinds of games."

In truth, for all those long-suffering souls in Falcons Nation who are still trying to get over that 28-3 lead their heroes blew in that Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots at the close of the 2016 season, the words of Gonzalez, Long and Strahan all carried equal weight.

How they let an onside kick by Dallas inside the final two minutes that traveled about 5 mph somehow be recovered by the Cowboys was mind-boggling, to say the least. All the Falcons had to do was get it short of the required 10 yards it must travel to be recovered by the kicking team, and they would have flown home from the Big D with a really big W.

Instead, three Falcons all suffered brain cramps at the same time, seemingly frozen as Dallas recovered the kick on its way to the winning field goal at the horn.

Because of this and the Super Bowl, as well as some less publicized losses, it certainly seems the Dirty Birds have blown a lot of games they should have won under Quinn's watch in what is now his sixth season on the job.

That said, this one almost certainly ranks second behind the Super Bowl collapse, though the gap in pain between those two defeats is as long as a traffic tie-up on Atlanta's I-285 on a Friday afternoon.

Yet what seems most certain today is that Quinn's time in the Big Peach may be done before next Sunday's visit from the undefeated Chicago Bears.

After getting a reprieve from Falcons owner Arthur Blank after last season's second straight 7-9 finish, Quinn — supposedly a defensive genius — has started this season with his team giving up 38 points in a 13-point home loss to the Seattle Seahawks and 40 points to the Cowboys, who amassed a stunning 570 yards of offense despite losing three fumbles.

Afterward, Quinn understandably attempted to find the positive: "I think this is going to be a very good team. We're not there today. But the improvement that we want to make, what we can become, that is all out there for us."

In theory, he may be right. To be fair to Quinn's defensive skills, the Falcons were flattened by injuries on that side of the ball against the Cowpokes. Defensive back Ricardo Allen left with an elbow injury. Defensive end Takk McKinley left with a groin injury. Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun with a bad hamstring. Safety Damontae Kazee and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. were also injuried, though they returned to play.

Such personnel losses no doubt made the defense more vulnerable. But that had nothing to do with failing to recover a very recoverable onside kick.

Regarding that final failure, Quinn said afterward: "Obviously disappointed in the way that the game ended because, as I said, there's a lesson to be learned in the loss to say, 'You have to go finish it out.'"

That doesn't mean Blank should necessarily let Quinn finish out the year, especially if Chicago drops the Falcons to 0-3.

And just in case the Falcons owner needs extra convincing, he might consider this: According to Elias Sports, NFL teams scoring 39 points while committing zero turnovers — which the Falcons did — were 440-0 since 1933, when turnovers were first tracked.

Mind-boggling, indeed.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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