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The Falcons are great at stopping third downs in the fourth quarter. Wait, what?

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2017 has been a strange year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Out of all the random stats we’ve thrown at you this year, this is probably the one you would least expect. Time and time again during our years as Falcons fans, they’ve been astonishingly bad at closing out games, and they’ve been incredibly lousy at stopping teams on third downs.

Incredibly, this year the Falcons have reversed both trends. They’ve not only been unusually stingy in the fourth quarter, they’ve also been the NFL’s fourth-best team at stopping teams from converting third downs. That’s just short of miraculous when you consider this team’s history.

Atlanta’s stinginess bodes well for them going forward, considering they have to play tough Vikings, Saints, and Panthers offenses in the coming weeks, and will assuredly need to make some late stops to win those games. You can credit a lot of that improvement to a more cohesive, talented unit that also actually seems capable of rushing the passer most weeks. The Falcons just have speed and physicality that hasn’t been there in years past, and while they’re still not as consistent as anyone would like, it’s quietly translating into results.

Now if the Falcons just could make a key third down stop in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl to ensure a win, this thing could have a real air of poetic justice to it. Make it so, universe.