The Atlanta Falcons Defense: A Silent But Deadly Killer

Photo Credit: NFL Mocks (featured image), NFL (logo)

There was lots of talk all season long about the amazing offense of the Atlanta Falcons led by MVP award frontrunner quarterback Matt Ryan. The offense scored 540 points (33.8 points per game average) in the regular season, which led the NFL by a wide margin. The 2nd closest team to 540 points was the New Orleans Saints, who scored 469 points (29.3 points per game average) this season.

With 71 total points more than 2nd place, an average of 4.5 points more per game, the offense of the Falcons would be easy to recognize as the one key force behind their remarkable run to Super Bowl LI. After all, without it, they would not be where they are right now. As stated above, they led the NFL in scoring. They were also 2nd in the NFL in total yardage, 3rd in the NFL in passing yardage, and 5th in the NFL in rushing yardage, the only team to be in the top 5 in all four of those categories.

But it is not the offense of the Falcons that has singlehandedly taken them all the way to their 2nd Super Bowl appearance in their 51-year franchise history. It is an extremely underrated defense that almost no one has talked at all about this season that has helped the Falcons reach Super Bowl L. It is a defense that ranked just 27th in the NFL in points allowed, 25th in the NFL in total yards allowed, 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and 17th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. So what is it about this defense that makes them a key contributing factor to this incredible season for the Falcons?

An extremely efficient offense paired with this underrated defense that ranked 16th in the NFL in takeaways (tied for 18th in the NFL in interceptions and tied for 9th in the NFL in fumble recoveries) allowed the Falcons to end the regular season with a +11 turnover differential, which was tied for 4th highest in the NFL. Also, no team can score as quickly as the Falcons did and have its defense constantly on the field putting up 2013 Seattle Seahawks or 2015 Denver Broncos “shut down” statistics. It just isn’t possible, which is why the Falcons’ defensive scoring and yardage rankings are so poor despite the fact that they actually have a very solid defense.

One telling statistic about how good the Falcons’ defense really is is their average scoring margin per game. The Falcons’ average scoring margin was +8.38 points per game, which ranked 2nd in the NFL behind only the New England Patriots (+11.94), the team that they will meet in Super Bowl LI. Another telling statistic about how good the Falcons’ defense really is is their average yardage margin per game. The Falcons’ average yardage margin was +44.63 yards per game, which ranked 4th in the NFL. Even with an offense as good as Atlanta’s, no team can rank that high up the charts in average scoring and/or yardage margins without a solid, and in this case underrated, defense.

From an individual standpoint, the Falcons’ defense was and is loaded with stars. Here are many key statistics that players on the Falcons’ defense were able to record this past season that make this defense truly underrated.

 

atl Linebacker Vic Beasley Jr.

  • Led the NFL with 15.5 sacks
  • 3rd in the NFL with 93 sack yards lost
  • Tied for the NFL lead with 6 forced fumbles
  • Tied for 6th in the NFL with 1 defensive touchdown
  • Tied for the NFL lead with 1 fumble returned for a touchdown

 

atl Linebacker Deion Jones (Rookie)

  • Led all NFL rookies and 25th in the NFL with 108 tackles
  • Tied for 6th among NFL rookies with 1 forced fumble
  • Tied for the NFL rookie lead and tied for 21st in the NFL with 3 interceptions
  • Led all NFL rookies and tied for the NFL lead with 2 defensive touchdowns
  • Led all NFL rookies and tied for the NFL lead with 2 interceptions returned for touchdowns
  • Led all NFL rookies and the NFL with 165 interception return yards

 

atl Strong Safety Keanu Neal (Rookie)

  • 2nd among NFL rookies and tied for 26th in the NFL with 106 tackles
  • Led all NFL rookies and tied for 3rd in the NFL with 5 forced fumbles
  • Tied for 6th among NFL rookies with 1 fumble recovery

 

atl Cornerback Robert Alford

  • Tied for 5th in the NFL with 19 passes defensed

 

atl Cornerback Brian Poole (Rookie)

  • Tied for 15th among NFL rookies with 59 tackles
  • Tied for 28th among NFL rookies with 1 sack
  • Tied for 9th among NFL rookies with 1 interception
  • Tied for 6th among NFL rookies with 24 interception return yards
  • Tied for the NFL rookie lead and tied for 8th in the NFL with 2 fumble recoveries

 

atl Defensive End Adrian Clayborn

  • Tied for 6th in the NFL with 1 defensive touchdown
  • Tied for the NFL lead with 1 fumble returned for a touchdown

 

atl Linebacker Paul Worrilow

  • Tied for 8th in the NFL with 2 fumble recoveries

 

atl Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (Rookie)

  • Tied for 23rd among NFL rookies with 48 tackles
  • Tied for 6th among NFL rookies with 1 forced fumble
  • Tied for 9th among NFL rookies with 1 interception
  • Tied for 15th among NFL rookies with 7 interception return yards

 

As evidenced by their overall numbers and the amazing statistics of much of their defensive personnel, the Falcons defense is extremely underrated despite what the basic defensive prowess measures such as scoring and total yardage say. It is a force to be reckoned with, not one to be overlooked. New England Patriots, take note. Super Bowl LI on Sunday, February 5th, 2017, looks like it could be a real showdown.

 

-Asher Fair

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