Jessie Bates didn’t just have a great game against the New Orleans Saints. The Atlanta Falcons safety had the kind of game that, in conjunction with a potent day on the ground, ensured the Saints were sunk and the Falcons would fly high. It was a masterful performance.
On Sunday, Bates had a pick-six on Derek Carr that ended a would-be scoring drive, forced a Taysom Hill fumble, and roamed all over the field creating minor forms of havoc when he wasn’t creating those turnovers all by himself. Inked to a big free agent deal as the centerpiece of a major-money spring, Bates has been everything the Falcons have hoped for and more, as he now has four interceptions and has keyed an improving defense, albeit one that had scuffled before the New Orleans game.
That effort against the Saints was enough to earn Bates NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. It was the second such award for Bates in 2023, following a win in Week 1 after he picked off Bryce Young twice and forced a fumble. When he’s rolling, there were few safeties—few defenders, really—as capable of creating game-changing plays.
Atlanta S Jessie Bates has been named the NFC defensive player of the week for the second time this season, becoming the first two-time winner of the year. Bates had a 92-yard INT return for a touchdown against the Saints.— Josh Kendall (@JoshTheAthletic) November 29, 2023
Prior to Bates’ Week 1 award, a Falcons defender hadn’t won this honor since the 2021 season, and a Falcons safety hadn’t snagged the award since William Moore did so in 2012. Even more incredibly, this is the first time a Falcons defender has gotten the award twice in a season since 1995, when the great Chris Doleman managed it. Bates is having one of the great seasons in team history already, and he still has six games to build on it.
The unquestioned crown jewel of this 2023 free agent class and a player who looks like he’ll be one of Atlanta’s best defenders for years to come, Bates has turned the tide for the Falcons in two games more or less all by himself this year. If this team is going to make a big playoff push down the stretch and become a force of nature in the NFC down the line, there’s little question that Bates will be at the heart of that improvement.