One of the best things ESPN does now is give power rankings with a theme. The outlet did it throughout the MLB season and has now done it through four weeks of the NFL campaign.
22. Atlanta Falcons (2-2)
Week 4 ranking: 16
Defensive efficiency: 59.3 (15th)
Biggest issue on defense: Sacking the quarterback
The Falcons, with five sacks, are not bringing quarterbacks down — a familiar lament from the past few seasons. It’s a problem, but a smaller one for an otherwise efficient unit. Even the sack numbers aren’t as big of a deal as in prior years since the Falcons are pressuring quarterbacks on 30.2% of dropbacks and have a pass rush win rate of 45.2% — almost 10% better than last season. — Michael Rothstein
The Falcons are pressuring quarterbacks on 29.5% dropbacks, which ranks 3rd in football. This means Atlanta is forcing a quarterback hurry, knockdown, or sack nearly 30% of the time when opponents pass.
However, they aren’t converting that pressure into sacks. The Falcons rank 30th in sack percentage, which is how often the defense recorded a sack compared to dropbacks.
This is a top 10 defense in nearly every metric, including third-down conversion rate and scoring. However, it can get even better if it starts getting quarterbacks on the ground.
The pass rush was a point of emphasis this offseason. Falcons fans might box score watch and think it hasn’t improved because of the sack totals, but the underlying metrics tell an entirely different story.
Outside of a couple of breakdowns in coverages, one last week by A.J. Terrell and another by Richie Grant against the Lions, this Falcons defense has been stout, answering the call time and time again.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire