The Falcons won last night’s game because of their defense. That’s not to diminish the fine work done by Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, the offensive line and (at times) Matt Ryan, but had it not been for the largely stellar work of the men on the other side of the ball, Atlanta would’ve buckled under the weight of Ryan’s interceptions and Matt Bryant’s shanked field goal and so forth.
Did you think the Falcons’ defense would rank among the very best in the NFL, though? My guess is that you did not.
The Falcons are 3rd in the NFL in total defense, and 1st in pass yards allowed, after tonight’s game.— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) September 16, 2019
The question, as always, is whether this is more mirage or a sign of things to come, and I simply don’t think we know yet. The run defense was horrendous against Minnesota and pretty solid against Philadelphia, but there’s a considerable gulf between Dalvin Cook and the Eagles’ group. The pass defense has been good in both games, but Kirk Cousins threw just 10 passes and Carson Wentz was banged up, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson were not factors due to injury, and so on. It’s beyond encouraging to see just two touchdown passes in two games and real pressure on the opposing quarterback, at the very least.
The positives here? Desmond Trufant looks terrific again, Isaiah Oliver mostly impressed last night, and Ricardo Allen is every bit the field general with a knack for touchdown-saving plays that he’s always been. The run defense was much better against the Eagles, and Grady Jarrett and Tyeler Davison are a fearsome duo on the interior of that defensive line. Takk McKinley and Vic Beasey had one of their best games as a duo, applying significant pressure to Carson Wentz and nearly coming away with two sacks, both authored (or nearly authored) by Beasley. The defense looks good, minus their inability to stop Cook in the first game, and there may just be something here. Carson W
The Colts will be a good test for this defense, and there are difficult matchups against the Texans and Cardinals looming shortly after that. If the Falcons are still near the top of the heap after six games—the Titans are mixed in there but present a less stiff challenge—then it’ll be time to start thinking about getting really excited. For now, maybe stick with cautious optimism.