As the Falcons wake up on Victory Monday, a lot of the talk will surround Desmond Ridder, Kyle Pitts, and Atlanta’s offense that finally looked like a competent unit.
Though they only put up 19 points, Ridder had by far the best performance of his career, which included a game-winning drive to set up a go-ahead field goal. He set career-best marks in completions and yards en route to a one-point victory over the Texans.
He silenced a lot of doubters and rewarded Arthur Smith for continually sticking by him. However, what might be lost in the excitement surrounding the Falcons offensive resurgence was another impressive defensive performance.
Ryan Nielsen’s group only gave up one touchdown, holding C.J. Stroud and Houston’s potent offense to just 2.8 yards per rush and 4-for-13 on third downs (30.7%) to go with six three-and-outs. Moreover, Jessie Bates III should’ve had another interception, giving Stroud the first of his career. It was another all-around great outing for one of the most underrated defenses in football.
Those are especially impressive numbers for a few reasons. Coming into the contest, the Texans were the fourth-best team in third-down offense. The Falcons also held them to just three field goals on three red zone trips. On money downs, Atlanta was at its best.
Houston scored 67 points over the last two weeks and couldn’t get across the goal line until the final couple of minutes of the game. Though the Falcons didn’t record a sack, they pressured Stroud all afternoon too.
Terry Fontenot and Atlanta’s front office invested heavily in the defense, and to say it’s paid off would be an understatement. It’s easily a top 10 unit in the league and will be something the Falcons can lean on for the rest of the season.