The 2012 Atlanta Falcons defense ranked fifth in the league in takeaways.
They finished the regular season with 20 interceptions and also recovered 14 fumbles. Thomas DeCoud led the team with six interceptions en route to his lone Pro Bowl selection, while Asante Samuel had five and William Moore had four. John Abraham forced six fumbles.
One of the key successes of Nolan’s defense that year was their ability to come up big when the team needed them. They weren’t shutting teams down but the ability to create turnovers was often the difference between winning or losing. It wasn’t just Peyton Manning who fell victim either.
In the 23-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees threw five interceptions for the only time in his career (while a penalty prevented a sixth). His streak of throwing a touchdown in 54 straight games also came to an end.
Dean Pees knows the value of getting the ball back to the offense. His defense led the league in interceptions in his last two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and finished eighth in his final season with the Tennessee Titans.
The Falcons don’t have Asante Samuel, a player who built a career around reading the eyes of quarterbacks and intercepting the ball. They have brought in defensive backs who specialize in picking off passes, though.
Safety Duron Harmon was nicknamed “The Closer” while with the New England Patriots for his ability to come up with game-sealing interceptions. Second-round pick Richie Grant had 10 interceptions during his time in college.
Fourth-round pick Darren Hall, who could start in nickel situations, only had six interceptions in his three years as a starter but had 22 passes defended in his final 19 games and has proven that he can make plays on the ball.
The Atlanta Falcons might not have a great defense in 2021. They might not even have a good one. With Dean Pees at the helm, though, there’s optimism that it could be an effective unit and come up big when needed.