The Falcons have forced 15 turnovers this season, which ranks a bit under league average, with five games left to play. For comparison, the club only totaled 17 in 2022, which ranked 28th in the league.
It’s not hard to track where the improvement has come from — Atlanta’s free agent class. Bud Dupree, Calais Campbell, and David Onyemata have forced four total fumbles. However, more than half of the Falcons’ turnovers have been generated by one free agent signing — Jessie Bates III.
The former Bengals safety is tied for 7th in forced fumbles and third in interceptions in the league; he is one of two players (Fred Warner) to force at least three interceptions and three fumbles.
That’s an unmitigated success of an acquisition, and that might even be underselling it somehow. He’s arguably been the single biggest force in the league when it comes to impacting the game.
His teammates have put it simply, “Shit, have Jessie Bates on your team” when asked about how they’ll continue to generate turnovers.
Richie Grant, when asked keys to continue generating turnovers:
"Shit, have Jessie Bates on your team."
— Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) December 7, 2023
It goes further than just the takeaways, though. His impact can be felt in the macro too. Entering Week 13, Atlanta’s defense ranks second in QBR allowed, which is up from 28th a year ago.
Jessie Bates III is also directly responsible for a couple of Falcons wins. In the season opener, he intercepted Bryce Young twice and forced a fumble. The three turnovers netted 17 points for Atlanta. Against the Saints, Bates was solely responsible for a 14-point swing and took part in another one.
Derek Carr and the Saints’ offense were driving with little resistance, and with his feet on the goal line, Bates jumped an in-breaking route to record his fourth interception of the season, taking it 92 yards for six points. Later in the game, he forced another fumble in Atlanta territory, giving Desmond Ridder and the Falcons offense the ball back, which ended in a touchdown.
Then last week he notched his fifth interception, and in a game where points were a rarity, the turnover was important. The Falcons probably would’ve won without it, but who’s complaining about padding some stats?
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire