The Atlanta Falcons are quietly, very quietly, showing some defensive improvement in recent weeks. The team got its stuff kicked in the first four weeks of the season in particular defensively, and while they’re still prone to memorably terrible plays and bad drives, the Falcons defense has been allowing nine fewer points per game over the past three games as compared to the first five of the season.
It’s time for us to equally quietly posit something a little crazy: Is this Falcons defense getting better? Our staff roundtable weighed in uneasily on this topic, but the short answer is obviously that we need to see more.
While the Falcons defense has been much improved over the last few weeks, it’s over a standard that would have put them as one of the worst in NFL history. So, yes, against an incredibly low bar this defense is improving. They may ultimately be a defense that can rank in the 18 to 25 range as well. There are good players with promising potential (AJ Terrell and Foye Oluokun) and established vets who are making plays (Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones). That said, some major issues remain. This defense still can’t consistently generate pressure with just the front four and they are prone to massive coverage errors that allow for big gains in the passing game. Until that is fixed, this is a mediocre unit at best and one still in desperate need of pass rushing talent. - David Walker
The defense definitely looks better, but that is, in part, because we were starting from the very bottom. The defense early this season was absolutely putrid. Now they look decent against some middling teams (Vikings and Panthers). It is great to watch players like Keanu Neal slowly returning to being an impact player, and young guys like AJ Terrell and Foye Oluokun shine. However, major problems remain along the defensive line and in coverage. This isn’t the worst defense in the league any longer but it still isn’t one of the best. - Matt Chambers
The Falcons went from allowing 32.3 per game on average in the first five weeks to 21 points per game in the past three weeks, though teams playing catch up are averaging far more passing yards than they were when Dan Quinn was still at the helm. The net effect certainly seems like an improving defense, one that has four turnovers in three games (the Falcons had four in the first five games) and has actually held on to two leads, albeit with one decisively blown lead in there.
The reality is that three games is probably too small of a sample size to make any sweeping statements, but the trend lines indicate a defense that is at least making some strides toward respectability. That would be an encouraging note to wrap up this 2020 season on, if nothing else. -Dave Choate
Over the course of the last three games, the defense has held opposing offenses to two of the lowest total outputs of the season. Also, the defense has held their last three opponents to 23, 23, and 17 total points, handily the three lowest scoring games for the defense this season. Did I mention that they recorded four turnovers over the last three games compared to just five total takeaways during their 0-5 start?
Statistically, there has been a considerable improvement. Sure the numbers appear to make a convincing case but I will be completely honest. I won’t judge the improvement of this defense until they consistently make the necessary plays late in games to close out wins. Such as the sack by Deion Jones and the interception by Blidi Wreh-Wilson on the Panthers last drive on Thursday night. - Eric Robinson