Falcons: Jessie Bates among ESPN’s “unique MVP” candidates

NFL: OCT 08 Texans at Falcons

It’s not an exaggeration to say Jessie Bates III is single-handedly responsible for several Falcons victories.

Dating back to the season opener, Bates picked off Bryce Young twice while forcing another fumble. Atlanta’s offense scored points on each of those turnovers. Then last week against the Saints, Bates was responsible for a potential 28-point swing.

New Orleans had two drives that looked prime to end in touchdowns; instead, they ended in 14 points for Atlanta. One was a 92-yard pick-six, and the other was a forced fumble and subsequent touchdown drive by Desmond Ridder. Obviously, those Saints drives could’ve ended in field goals or even no points at all, but that isn’t likely.

The heroics continued on Sunday as Bates notched his fifth interception of the season. When points are at a premium for the Falcons, whose offense has struggled mightily, Bates’ game-altering plays are even more impactful.

He’s been rewarded with Defensive Player of the Week honors twice and has even garnered MVP recognition. Bill Barnwell of ESPN made a case for nine unique candidates, and Bates was one.

Does he have a shot at winning the real MVP award? No. Bates is having an extremely impactful season, but if flashy (and brilliant) safeties like Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu weren’t winning the award, it’s going to be tough for Bates. He should be an All-Pro candidate, though.

What could he do to get in serious contention? Start playing offense. With one touchdown, Bates has as many scores this season as tight end Kyle Pitts. He also has touched the ball eight times through interceptions and forced fumbles, which would be a good month for Pitts given his usage. Playing and catching passes ahead of Pitts and Drake London would infuriate fantasy owners, but it would likely thrill coach Arthur Smith.

Jessie Bates ranks third among defensive backs in tackles and third in interceptions and is one of two players to force at least three interceptions and three fumbles.

The Falcons rank second in QBR allowed, which is a drastic improvement from a year ago (28th). His impact cannot be understated; just ask the Bengals. Cincinnati ranked 10th in QBR allowed last year and has fallen all the way to 31st this season.

Jessie Bates won’t be in the conversation for the Defensive Player of the Year because it’s basically The Best Pass Rusher Award now, but he deserves to be at least mentioned among Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt, and Micah Parsons.

Photographer: John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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