Against the Washington Football Team, the Falcons had a handful of opportunities to pull ahead but failed to capitalize. Atlanta’s safety duo of Erik Harris and Duron Harmon dropped a combined three potential Taylor Heinicke interceptions, which Dean Pees addressed to the media this week.
Atlanta’s defense is one of only two teams in the NFL that hasn’t recorded an interception, and ironically, they’ll travel across the pond to take on the other team — the Jets. New York is coming off a massive win over the Titans, where Zach Wilson threw for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns as he flashed the big-play ability he was heralded for coming out of BYU.
But before that, the Jets were shut out by the Broncos and embarrassed by the Patriots, while Carolina’s defense rag-dolled Wilson in the season opener. Three different defenses provided the blueprint to beat the Jets, but none better than Bill Belichick’s group.
The rookie quarterback threw interceptions on his first two passing attempts in Week 2 against New England. Then he threw his third pick, which gave him more interceptions (3) than completions (2). It was over from the get-go, but Wilson finished the day off by throwing a fourth interception.
Belichick has notoriously neutralized rookie quarterbacks, but the difference was the Patriots’ ability to refrain from shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. Not only that, but New England also capitalized on the miscues of the Jets, scoring 16 points off New York’s four turnovers on the day.
So not only will the Falcons defense have to convert on these turnover opportunities, but the offense will have to do their part — complementary football. Dean Pees will have to throw different looks at Wilson to confuse the green quarterback. Showing Cover 2, Cover 1, or Cover 3 pre-snap, then rolling into a different coverage will be vital in confusing the rookie.
Inevitably, Wilson will get outside the pocket, where his big-play ability was on full display against Tennessee. First and foremost, Atlanta’s pass rushers will have to keep their lane integrity, but the Falcons defensive backs will have to stick to receivers if Wilson does escape the pocket. Let him make mistakes, then be there to capitalize. This is a very winnable game for the Falcons, and if they aren’t able to slow down this New York offense, the future will look grim.