The Atlanta Falcons have not been a team defined by their defense for...well, how long has it been? The last time the Falcons were truly good on defense was over a decade ago, I’d say, and they’re closer now than they have been in many moons.
Dan Quinn knows this, too. That’s the subject of Jeff Schultz’s latest piece at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which features some frank quotes from Quinn about the early season defense, and some hopeful notes for the future.
Let’s start with this, which tells you that the platitudes Quinn uses on a weekly basis don’t always indicate his true feelings. He seems just as frustrated by the dumb mistakes that killed the Falcons early on as we were:
“That really bothered me early,” he said.
“The tackling, the takeaways, the discipline to play and the run defense was not up to the standards. It wasn’t an issue of getting bullied around. It was an issue of not being in your gaps. When you jump out and they go for 15 yards, that’s on you. We had too much of that.”
Over the last three weeks, the Falcons have quietly played extremely well on defense, minus some very significant lapses in coverage against the Jets and an ongoing inability to stop Cam Newton from running all over them in Week 9. When you come down to it, though, both sides of the ball have looked improved of late, and that bodes extremely well for the Falcons. Considering their defense is young, (mostly) inexpensive, and gifted, you can’t help but feel a little bullish. I’d think.
But while the Falcons are defined by their offense, the rest of their season actually may be defined by their defense.
“I think that’s an accurate statement,” coach Dan Quinn told me the other day. “I like the chemistry that’s starting to happen on the ’17 team. It’s taken longer than I wanted it to, but I think we’re starting to get there.”
Whether this defense can reach the lofty heights suggested by its talent level remains to be seen, but there are hopeful signs. They really don’t have to do much to be one of the better defenses the Falcons have had in recent memory, and genuine improvement on that side of the ball could propel this team to the playoffs for a second straight season.