The Falcons offense hasn’t put together a complete game yet, but the defense is good enough to carry them to the playoffs until they figure it out.
Desmond Ridder is coming off the best performance of his young career, throwing for nearly 330 yards and a 78% completion rate while tossing a score and running for another. The offense still just put up 21 points, but it was a dramatic improvement from the last two weeks.
Atlanta put up a total of 13 points against the Jaguars and Lions. On the season, they’re averaging just 16.6 points per game, which ranks 27th in the league.
It’s certainly not the production many had imagined from an offense that features three top-10 picks, along with a slew of other weapons and a formidable line. That hasn’t come to fruition just yet, but we saw glimpses of it last week against the Texans.
What hasn’t taken any time to gel is Ryan Nielsen’s defense.
The Falcons invested very heavily in that side of the ball this offseason, signing impact free agents at all three levels. Jessie Bates III, Kaden Elliss, and David Onyemata inked deals on the first day of free agency. Over the course of a couple of months, Atlanta would go on to add Jeff Okudah, Calais Campbell, and Bud Dupree.
The collection of talent was undeniable considering A.J. Terrell and Grady Jarrett were already present. However, it was fair to wonder if the new-look group would take some time to adjust to a new scheme. It hasn’t been the case, though. The investment has netted an immediate positive return.
It’s a top 10 unit across most significant statistics. Their 19.2 points per game ranks 10th in the league, their 32.2% third down conversion rate ranks 5th, their 38.5% red zone touchdown rate ranks 5th, and their 28.2% pressure rate ranks 5th.
The turnovers and sacks aren’t quite there yet, but that doesn’t tell the entire story of the effectiveness of this Falcons’ defense. It is stingy and can win in a multitude of ways.
It’s good enough to carry the offense until Arthur Smith and Desmond Ridder figure out that side of the ball.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire