The Falcons have struggled with fourth quarter defense basically since the dawn of time. I don’t really want to provide any recent examples for fear it will trigger powerful, awful memories, but suffice to say you all can summon them from the netherworld of memory pretty easily yourself.
That unfortunate trend has continued over the first four games of 2017.
#Falcons defense net yards per play allowed:— PFF ATL Falcons (@PFF_Atlanta) October 11, 2017
1st 3 Quarters - 3.8 (3rd)
4th Quarter - 5.0 (26th)
One interpretation of this, I suppose, is that Atlanta is letting off the gas because they have a lead. That would only be true in the Green bay game, where they really did have a sufficient lead to change their defensive philosophy a bit. All their other games have been extremely tight, and the outcome almost swung in the Chicago and Detroit games on that defensive laxity. Whether it’s a defense built for speed wearing down late, teams figuring out this Atlanta defense late in games, or happenstance isn’t immediately clear, but it is evident that the Falcons are running into some trouble late in games.
That will obviously need to change going forward if Atlanta’s going to have the kind of season we’re all hoping for, because you’re not going to get away with defensive pullback late in games against the likes of the Patriots, Cowboys, and the trio of nettlesome NFC South opponents coming up late in the year.