Aug. 24, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan looks on before a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta has one of the most underrated defenses in the league. I seem to use that word a lot when describing this team, but it seems to be a recurring theme. The two biggest aspects of a defense that is most looked at is the same two stats that ESPN displays on the team sites. That’s rushing yards per game and passing yards per game. When looking at those stats, the Falcons defense is far below average. But as Falcons fans, I’m sure all of us have heard the term “bend but don’t break.”
The Falcons allow around 242.4 passing yards per game last year. Of course the Falcons did play against some of the best passing teams in the league. Along with that, the Falcons also played against some of the best running teams and came in 21st with 123.2 rushing yards per game. But if those are the only stats you look at, the Falcons have an awful defense. But what part of a defense wins games? What is the goal of defenses? To keep the Offense off the scoreboard! It would be great if they could keep them off the field, but the goal is simply to keep them from scoring. In that area, the Falcons are 5th in the league at only 18. 7 points per game while scoring roughly 26.2 points per game. They ranked 6th in forcing turnovers with nearly 2 per game. Atlanta ranks among the top 10 teams in many defensive categories that tell a better story than “Yards per rush/pass.”
The defense is opportunistic; it confuses quarterbacks, and keeps the other team off the board. Mike Nolan has turned this defense into a force in a single season. I can only assume he had the most say in the last draft while only drafting two offensive players. Given another year, they can only get better. But as long as critics look at yards as the biggest indicator to how a defense performs, Many teams, not only the Falcons, will be left overlooked.