The Falcons‘ defense has been the lone bright spot in another otherwise inconsistent product for Atlanta. Outside of a forgettable performance against Will Levis and the Titans, Ryan Nielsen has come as advertised.
Atlanta’s investment in that side of the ball has paid dividends. They’re stingy in the redzone and on third downs. They might not have the gaudy sack totals as some other units but are pressuring quarterbacks at a high rate.
The Falcons rank 5th in red zone scoring percentage; opponents score a touchdown on just 42.1% of trips inside the 20-yard line. Atlanta has ranks tied for 4th in the NFL in third down conversion rate, allowing first downs on just 33.7% of third downs. The Falcons also rank 2nd in the league in pressure rate. On 28.8% of dropbacks, Atlanta is hurrying, knocking down, or sacking opposing quarterbacks.
They’re also one of the best defenses in football on opening drives. Atlanta is one of six units that has not allowed an opening drive touchdown this season.
Best NFL defenses on opening drives? Six haven't allowed a touchdown yet this season: Jaguars, Falcons, Patriots, Chargers, Packers, Titans. Jags, Chargers, Packers have given up a single field goal each all year.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) November 1, 2023
The Falcons slipped up against the Titans but have an excellent chance to turn that trend back around this week against the Vikings. Minnesota is set to start Jarren Hall, who is a fifth-round rookie out of BYU set to make his NFL debut.
We all thought that Atlanta was primed to give Will Levis a welcome to the NFL moment, but that didn’t come to fruition. The Falcons cannot let that happen again, and they’ll be shorthanded while they do so.
Grady Jarrett‘s presence was missed dearly against the Titans, and Atlanta better find other ways of impacting the game because he’s going to be out for the entire season.
Photographer: John Adams/Icon Sportswire