Just how far has the Falcons defense come?

NFL: SEP 10 Panthers at Falcons

For as long as I can remember, the Falcons have been all offense and no defense.

ESPN recently did an article exploring just how bad the Denver Broncos’ defense has been through four games, and a pair of Atlanta’s defenses showed up among the 13 worst.

The 1993 Falcons defense ranked 12th with a 29.3% DVOA, while allowing 36.5 points per game through four games that season; it was the worst pass defense among all of these units. It didn’t get much better the next year because the 1992 defense was ranked as the 4th worst defense ever through four games by DVOA.

That was a different era, though. More recently, it seemed like Matt Ryan would either be trying to lead an improbable comeback or the defense would surrender a lead that Ryan gave them. Over the last couple of seasons, it’s almost felt like it’s hit rock bottom.

Under Dean Pees last year, the Falcons defense was 23rd in scoring (22.7), 31st in third down conversion rate (45.9%), 27th in total yards per game (362.1), 23rd in rushing yards per game (130.2), 25th in completion percentage (66.3%), 29th in quarterback rating (95.7), 31st in sacks (21), and 32nd in pressure rate (14.6%).

There wasn’t a single metric that Atlanta was even better than average, let alone a top 10 unit. It should make Falcons fans that much more grateful for the group we have right now.

Through four weeks, the Falcons are by all accounts a top 10 group. They rank 10th in points per game (19.3), 5th in red zone percentage (40% of trips ending in a touchdown), 7th in yards per game (290.8), 9th in completion percentage (62.7%), 5th in explosive plays allowed (16), 4th in pressure rate (29.5%), and 9th in third down conversion rate (33.3%).

The offseason investments have certainly provided an immediate return. Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, Bud Dupree, Kaden Elliss, and Jeff Okudah joined the Falcons and assumed starting roles. It’s been one of the most dramatic turnarounds of any unit for this franchise, right next to the 2016 offense.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire



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