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numberFire: Falcons defense making major strides

This defense is, by at least a few measures, taking steps forward. Let’s hope it continues against the Patriots.

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

All season long, we’ve been debating whether the Falcons defense is getting better, or if the offense is just so good that it masks a lot of weaknesses. I don’t know if that debate is settled, but we’ve got some compelling evidence that things are trending in the right direction from this numberFire article.

I’ll readily acknowledge that there have been hiccups along the way, and that this defense still has a ways to go before we talk about it being a consistent, great unit. But when numberFire puts their case together, you can see improvement in passing yards allowed, scores allowed, and first downs allowed, plus gains in interceptions and sacks. Overall, even in a relatively small sample size of games, it certainly looks like the Falcons are improving. By at least one metric, the Falcons have had a top ten pass defense since the bye, though I think that might be a little strong.

Falcons defense
Falcons defensive breakdown

The playoffs have made that case more strongly. The Falcons have gotten multiple turnovers in back-to-back weeks, limited the Seahawks and Packers while the offense has gone nuts, and have been delivering huge hits along the way from the likes of Keanu Neal, Brian Poole, and Jalen Collins. The Patriots provide a potentially rough challenge, but the Packers were supposed to, too, and the Falcons just steamrolled them. I no longer think Atlanta’s defense is going to be a liability against New England.

Why? Because this secondary is as physical as they come, and has proven to be remarkably opportunistic in recent weeks. Because the linebackers, led by rookies Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, are fast and dangerous. And because Vic Beasley, while relatively quiet over the last couple of weeks, remains a tough player, and should have an easier matchup against Marcus Cannon than he did a week ago against the Packers.

The big trouble spot, if one is going to rear its head, will be the relative weakness at defensive tackle, even if Ra’Shede Hageman, Tyson Jackson, and Jonathan Babineaux have played better of late. That’s especially true because the best way to attack Tom Brady is with pressure in his face.

This Falcons defense is going to be very good before long, I believe. It just has to be good enough to slow the Patriots down in this one to give the Falcons their first Lombardi, and for the first time in a long time, I’m heading into this one thinking they will.