During the 2016 regular season, the stingy Seattle Seahawks defense allowed an average of just 18.2 points per game, which was the third-best mark in the NFL. They were fifth-best in total yardage allowed per game, too, and were generally regarded as one of the best defenses in the NFL. They were one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Of course, Atlanta just took it to that very same defense, putting up 36 points in the cozy confines of the Georgia Dome en route to a Divisional Round playoff victory. Besides being a terrific, important win for this franchise (which we’ll talk about more tomorrow), it also meant the Falcons have cleared away the last truly great defense left in their path between here and the Super Bowl. The two potential opponents left, the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, can’t boast the same defensive acumen.
Here’s a quick look at how both teams fared in the regular season:
Scoring Per Game
Yardage Per Game
As we can note here, Dallas generally fared much better than Green Bay, though part of that is the Cowboys controlling time of possession thanks to a potent short passing game and stud rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. Neither team boasts the kind of pass rush and stellar secondary Seattle brings to bear, regardless of the numbers, which clearly works in Atlanta’s favor. If the Falcons can do this to Seattle’s defense, after all, what can they do to Dallas of Green Bay?
Of course, the teams best equipped to beat Atlanta are the teams that can keep up with them in a shootout, and the Cowboys and Packers are much better-suited for that task than Seattle was. Still, it’s encouraging to know that the Falcons just hung 36 points on a terrific defense (albeit one without Earl Thomas), particularly given the potential matchups that lie ahead. They’ll just need to be able to come up with stops against much better offenses, which is more daunting, to be fair.
The Falcons could face a great defense in the Super Bowl, but I refuse to look that far ahead. Let’s see what next weekend brings.