The Atlanta Falcons defense has played particularly well since the bye week. Has it been a mirage or will Sunday’s game prove the unit has finally come together?
Has the Atlanta Falcons defense really come together, or have they been a product of bad competition in recent weeks? The answer lies in Sunday’s game as the New Orleans Saints bring their #2 ranked scoring offense to town.
[Atlanta] also improved upon their +3 turnover margin…own the NFL’s third best mark at +10
Over the current three game win streak, the Falcons defense has had the good fortune of playing inferior competition. The Rams, 49ers and Panthers averaged a pathetic 14.3 points against a defense that entered the stretch 29th overall. Thanks to those cellar dwellers, the Falcons defense vaulted up to the 25th best scoring unit. They’ve also improved upon their +3 turnover margin and now own the NFL’s third best mark at +10.
With the playoffs approaching, the Saints game will determine if the Falcons defense can be counted on in January.
High-potency pass defense
Lost in the fray of New Orleans’ mediocre 7-8 season, Drew Brees has played as well as any other quarterback. That is, except future NFL MVP Matt Ryan of course. The Atlanta Falcons caught a glimpse of Brees in Week 3 as the two teams engaged in one of their epic shootouts. If not for a deflected pass returned for an Atlanta touchdown, the Saints may have won the game. Instead, the Falcons spoiled the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina clean-up with a 45-32 victory.
Drew Brees isn’t the only player to watch out for on the Saints offense. Much like the Falcons’ wealth of receiving options, New Orleans boasts three players with 800+ yards, and a fourth nearing 600. Wide receiver Michael Thomas and tight end Coby Fleener gave the Falcons defense fits in the first matchup. That doesn’t go without saying Atlanta was without Jalen Collins and De’Vondre Campbell.
Stuffing Mark Ingram
For the Atlanta Falcons, stopping the run has been a challenge all season, especially in their last three games. They allowed games of 104, 107, and 119 on the ground against the likes of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Carolina. The Falcons must improve upon that if they are going to have any shot of containing the Saints offense.
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Mark Ingram is another Saint who found great success in the first meeting. Ingram gashed the Falcons for 77 yards on just 15 attempts. The Falcons defense simply had no answer for the draw plays New Orleans deployed to counter the pass rush.
The former Heisman trophy winner is now 60 yards from his first 1,000 yard season. We can fully expect New Orleans will look to establish the run and get Ingram his due on Sunday.
Iron sharpens iron
One positive working in the defense’s favor happens to be the Atlanta offense. What better way to prepare for the NFL’s #2 offense than to practice against the #1 unit? Dan Quinn has preached “iron sharpens iron” all season long. Members of the Falcons defense spoke to that on Wednesday and all agreed how much it helps to practice against the best.
Sunday is essentially first test for the Falcons defense in games that are instrumental to the rest of the current season. We know the Falcons offense can score points against better defenses. We’ll find out if the current version of the Falcons defense can keep points off the board against one of the best offenses. A loss to the Saints doesn’t put Atlanta out of the playoffs, but it would be a crushing blow to team momentum.
The Atlanta Falcons need a solid defense in order to find their way to Houston.