Atlanta Falcons First Takes: Observations from Week Three

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Golden Tate /

Should Atlanta Falcons fans be concerned about Atlanta’s “lucky” 3-0 start or optimistic? The week three installment of Falcons First Takes provides the answer.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the Atlanta Falcons proceed to say “hold my beer” as they win a game the way they did on Sunday. Due to a technicality in the rulebook, a 10-second runoff allowed the Falcons to escape Ford Field with a crazy 30-26 victory.

With the win, Atlanta finished the day as the only remaining unbeaten team in the NFC.

Outsiders will point to the Falcons being a combined six yards away from a 1-2 record as to why the defending NFC Champions are frauds. On the flip side, Dirty Bird Nation would counter by saying Atlanta has not trailed at any point in their first three games to legitimize their 3-0 mark.

If only there was a place that could settle hot debates such as this. Oh wait, there is; it’s called Falcons First Takes.

Lucky or Good?

Consider the Falcons’ luck last year. Atlanta had three games in 2016 where Lady Luck was not on their side—at Seattle and versus Kansas City and San Diego.

Of the three, the most memorable one was the Seattle game that ended with a botched pass interference call which kept the Falcons from kicking the game-winning field goal.

In the other two, the Falcons lost by way of an unprecedented pick-two and after surrendering a 27-10 lead to the Chiefs and Chargers, respectively.

If the same situations played out nine more times, the Falcons likely walk away victorious in all nine. That is where the law of regression to the mean comes into play.

The breaks Atlanta failed to get in 2016 have been made up thus far in Chicago and Detroit. So have the Falcons been lucky in 2017? Sure, but they’ve also had moments of brilliance, too.

For example, the offense put up 30 points in Detroit without even breaking a sweat. In fact, the Falcons had so much success moving the ball versus the Lions that their first punt came with less than four minutes to go in the game. Factor in the three turnovers committed by Atlanta, one of which occurred in Detroit’s red zone, and the Falcons easily could have hung 40 on the Lions.

The same could have been said in week two versus the Packers. So while the team has certainly had its share of breaks, they’ve also earned every outcome they’ve gotten.

A defense that can win games

All too often last year, the offense had the burden of every game resting on its shoulders. Well, we’re only three games into this season and the defense has already won more games than the offense has.

The key to their success thus far has been a vastly improved pass rush. Currently, the team ranks ninth in the league in sacks with nine.

Even more impressive, Atlanta’s front four showed no signs of slowing down without the services of Vic Beasley. Takk McKinley delivered his first career sack on Sunday while Adrian Clayborn recorded his second takedown in as many games.

If the team keeps up this pace, they will register a 40-plus sack season for the first time since 2004. That year they led the league in the category en route to an NFC Championship game berth.

But that’s not the only thing the 2004 team shares in common with the 2017 squad. According to Mike Conti, those teams are two of three in franchise history to win their first three games without ever trailing.

When you consider that the other one also went to the NFC Championship game, you have to like this team’s chances moving forward.

Next: Can the Atlanta Falcons go 16-0?

With a resurgent pass rush and an offense that blitzes the competition, Dan Quinn may have found the blueprint for success in Atlanta. Get out to an early lead and have the pass rush pin their ears back.

It also helps to have a little luck on your side, too.