Our friends at Secret Base track all sorts of weird and cool moments and statistics in the NFL, and unsurprisingly those sometimes involve the Atlanta Falcons. None have been more surprising than the team’s quest to not allow a single play of 40 yards or more on defense, something no team had managed to do in at least 25 years.
I’m happy to report that somehow, the Falcons pulled that off.
This is remarkable for a number of reasons. The Falcons had a pretty lousy defense, for one thing, one that all too often was marred by missed tackles and frustrating lapses in coverage. You would expect a team to get lucky at some point, given that, and manage to make it further downfield than 40 yards. Somehow, whether by sheer luck or the sure downfield tackling of A.J. Terrell, Fabian Moreau, and Duron Harmon, among others, Atlanta prevented that.
The second is that even if the Falcons were an elite defense, you’ll note that this simply doesn’t happen. Every other team Secret Base tracked has allowed this to happen at least three times in a season, and I’m pretty sure the 2020 Falcons allowed it to happen upwards of 20 times. It takes a confluence of luck and one unique skill—in this case, Dean Pees’ insistence on keeping everything in front of this defense and a secondary capable of at least mostly enforcing that—to make that happen. We may never see it again.
When we look back on the 2021 season someday, we’ll fondly remember the Cordarrelle Patterson breakout, A.J. Terrell’s emergence and beating the Saints that one time, and there’ll be plenty of missed opportunities to lament. This may be the weirdest and most memorable thing the Falcons accomplished this year, though.