The haters will say Falcons are lucky to be 10-2 because they don't have a top 5 Offense or top 5 Defense, far from a top 5 defense Falcons have 26th ranked pass defense. I had to dig deeper in to the stats to see what are the key ingredients in the recipe for falcon's success. In the first part I will cover 3 keys; the other 3 keys to success and also the reason behind Falcons so many close games will be covered in part 2. All the stats are for first 11 games (excluding the Week 13 Bucs game).
1. Team Effort:
Atlanta Falcons play as a team in all phases of the game. Defense, offense and special teams play as one unit. They feed each other and bail out each other if the going gets tough in one phase.
One very good example of this is Turnovers.
Defense on Turnovers:
If the offense turns over the ball, the defense comes to the rescue, yeah the same 26th ranked pass defense. There were 8 defensive drives this year because of a turn over and the defense gave up just 3 scoring drives(37%) out of 8 drives for a total of 13 points (1 TD and 2 FG). Defense does a great job of limiting the damage because of Offensive Turnovers.
The defense has caused 20 Turnovers including 1 Defensive score. This is the hall mark of an opportunistic defense.
Offense on the Turnovers:
Offense got the ball back 18 times (excluding one late game ending interception and one Defensive score) because of a turnover caused by our turnover machine Defense. The offense scored on 13 drives (72%) out of 18 drives caused by a turnover for a total of 63 points (6TD and 7 FG's).
The offense has turned over the ball 11 drives (9%) out of 119 drives. The Falcons are in Top 5 for fewest turnover differential in the NFL.
Defense limits the damage done by the Falcons offensive turnovers. The Falcons offense does a good job of scoring on the drives caused by the defensive turnovers. The Turn over point differential is 13 points given up to 63 points scored.
Falcons are the least penalized team in the NFL. This is important because the Falcons don't beat themselves.
Defense on Penalties:
This is probably the most improved part of the defense compared to the last years night mare of PI calls against the falcons. There were only 2 scoring drives(6.7%) aided by the falcon's defensive penalties out of 33 Scoring drives by the opposing team's offense. This means the teams have to score by themselves without any help from the falcons defense. Even if the Falcons defense gives up a penalty they come back and stop the drive.
Offense on Penalties
The offense does a good job of limiting offensive penalties but it can be lot better. There were 8 Drives (6.7%) which resulted in a punt out of 119 total offensive drives because of a Penalty. The offensive penalties directly contributed to 3 FG's instead of Touch downs.
The offense is good in forcing the opposing defenses to commit defensive penalties. Falcon's offense has benefited by a defensive penalty in 19 Scoring Drives (37%) out of 52 total scoring drives.
3. Long Drives (Drives >10 Plays) Efficiency:
Defense: 52%(Lower the better)10 long scoring drives allowed /19 Total Long Drives
Defense can let opposing offense drive down the field but they are stingy in scoring drives more than 10 plays. Defense allowed only 52% scoring on the long drives, to be exact 10 long scoring drives out of 19 total long drives. This explains why Defense ranks 26th in Pass Yards but 7th in scoring rank.
Offense: 96.5 %( Higher the Better) -28 Long scoring drives/29 total Long drives
The long grinding drives are the bread and butter of the Falcons offense. The falcons scored 28 times out of 29 long drives. When the offense Marches down the field they score a TD or at least a FG. Next time you see a slow grinding methodical drive it means the falcons are more likely to score points. With so many weapons on offense this is expected.
Bottom-line: This is a very good example of bend but not break defense. The defense might let the opposing teams march down the field but they are not going to give up points that easily.