Jessie Bates had one of the all-time great first games in Falcons history, causing three turnovers and making several important tackles to lead Atlanta to a Week 1 victory against the Carolina Panthers. Considering all three turnovers led to points and stopped Carolina drives cold, it was a game-winning sort of effort for Atlanta’s new elite safety, and the kind of game we’ll remember for years to come.
The league took notice, as they should, and now Bates is the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1.
Bates gave Bryce Young a rude welcome to the league, picking him off twice on throws over the middle. Those two interceptions were as many as the team’s leaders had a year ago, and this is just Bates’ first game. After signing a big, lucrative deal this spring as the crown jewel of Atlanta’s free agency class, Bates figured to be a critical player in a rebuilt secondary that features Richie Grant, A.J. Terrell, Dee Alord, and (when he’s healthy) Jeff Okudah. That group looked great on Sunday, but Bates was the standout, with the turnovers he generated directly leading to 17 of Atlanta’s 24 points.
This is the first time a Falcon has won the Defensive Player of the Week award since 2021, when Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun each won it once. and the first time an Atlanta defensive back has received the honor since Desmond Trufant in 2017. If you want to talk specifically about safeties, the last time an NFC Defensive Player of the Week award went to the Falcons was back in 2012, when William Moore earned it. Bates is making a hell of an early impression, is what I’m getting at.
Whether he gets this award again this year or not, Bates looks like an impact defender for a Falcons team that needed one. He should help propel this defense to a better finish than we’ve seen in many years, and is already showing that he can be the kind of elite playmaker who strikes fear into the hearts of opposing offenses.