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We never expected the Falcons defense to be this good

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We hoped for improvement, but we got a little more than that.

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

Prompted today to talk about something we never expected from these Atlanta Falcons, I sat upon a mountain top for hours and meditated. The topic I came up with is one that probably won’t be met with universal praise.

When I put together my projections for the season, I suggested that the defense finishing in the top half of the league would be an accomplishment. The Falcons were loaded with talent, sure, but they were still a pretty mediocre defense for much of the 2016 season. There was no particular reason to think they’d be able to make some lightning fast ascent through the NFL’s defensive rankings, though, not when you had a couple of question marks and plenty of growth still ahead.

The Falcons have been curiously inept at getting turnovers this year, and those they have gotten have frequently been overturned by ill-timed penalties. They’ve also had stretches where they’ve been unable to get off the field, which has kept them from resembling an elite unit. And yet by many measurements, they’ve been a top ten defense, and they’ve done a quietly impressive job of holding quality offenses in check. They have a long way to go before you’ll think of them as those prime Seahawks defenses, which Dan Quinn would be thrilled with, but they are very legitimately better than I anticipated.

Top 15, sure. Top 10, though? In anything? No, I can’t say I honestly expected that in the year of our Football Lords 2017.

What has been the biggest surprise for you with this Falcons team?