If you want to get at the heart of what the Atlanta Falcons want to be on defense, you can watch them against the Cardinals. That defense was aggressive, it attacked, it forced turnovers and focused on the strengths of the opposing offense, not the weaknesses. That is the ideal version of this Falcons defense, as currently constructed. It is also the blueprint for the future.
The Falcons haven't had a truly great defense in many moons, and they won't be one again until they rebuild the corps of linebackers and add legitimate pass rushing talent to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Yet the Falcons have shown this season and certainly in the heady days of 2012 that you can mask talent problems by employing confusion, fighting for turnovers and playing that aggressive brand that worked so well against the Cardinals.
The Falcons have been strangely slow to come to that conclusion, with the defense employing plenty of subterfuge early in the year, but using that more to drop players back into coverage than to attack the line of scrimmage. It's understandable to want to be a bit more conservative when you don't have fantastic personnel, but often teams just beat you anyways, and that's exactly what happened with a Falcons defense that ranked among the worst in the NFL for the first half of the season.
Whether it was the return of William Moore that gave him confidence or the interceptions the Falcons piled up in the weeks before, it's clear Nolan's finally ready to start taking the training wheels off, even if the snap counts for Jonathan Massaquoi still inspire the berserker rage of the fanbase.
As I said, that's the way forward. Regardless of who is coordinating the defense in 2015 and beyond, and regardless of how much of a talent infusion is in the offing, the Falcons will be best served by being aggressive. They'll get burned at times, yes, but that would happen regardless. I'd prefer they were constantly attempting to make something happen, due to the odds of getting lucky at times, and when the talent really catches up they may just be able to wreak havoc on a regular basis.
What's your blueprint for Falcons defensive success the rest of the way, and in 2015?