Coming into the season, Falcons fans were cautiously optimistic about the new-look defense.
A.J. Terrell and Grady Jarrett were joined by Jessie Bates III, Jeff Okudah, David Onyemata, Calais Campbell, Bud Dupree, and Kaden Elliss while Ryan Nielsen took over for Dean Pees. It was fair to wonder with so many new pieces in a new system how long it would take for it to come together.
The investment in that side of the ball has net immediate returns. This Falcons defense may be the best one of my lifetime, and Calais Campbell thinks it could be the top unit in the league as he told Jim Rome on Wednesday.
"We could be the best defense in football this year."
— Jim Rome (@jimrome) October 25, 2023
They dominated the Panthers in the opener, forcing Bryce Young to throw two interceptions and holding Carolina’s offense to just 10 points. They enabled a fourth quarter comeback the following week against the Packers, holding Jordan Love and Green Bay’s offense scoreless in the final quarter.
Against the Lions, they kept the game within one score until a late-game breakdown in the secondary resulted in a Jared Goff touchdown. In the last two weeks, the defense played lights out in the fourth quarter, enabling Desmond Ridder to lead a game-winning drive against the Buccaneers and multiple attempts at a game-winning drive against the Commanders.
They might not have the gaudy sack and turnover totals as some other clubs, but this defense is stingy where it counts. They’re pressuring quarterbacks among the highest rates in the league, and rank inside the top 10 in third down and redzone defense. What’s scary is this unit is only going to get better as they gel even more.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire