Falcons Defense Is Getting Better


The motto for the Falcons team really since their bye week ended two weeks ago has been to go “1-0 every week.” Since then, they have done just that and the defense has been a reason for the two weeks of going “1-0.”

Yes, they are still last in the league in total defense, giving up an average of 403.4 yards per game. Plus, they’re also in the bottom half of the league in points per game. Currently they are surrendering about 26 points a game.

With both of those facts being stated, I can definitely hear your questions right now. How is this defense getting better?

The past couple of weeks, we have seen some things that we hadn’t seen at times this season. Like a viable pass rush and also the ability to stop the run.

In the Tampa Bay game for example, the Falcons were able to sack Josh McCown four times and hurry him 11 times. Sure they didn’t have Doug Martin playing in the game, however they held the Buccaneers to 92 yards total rushing. McCown was the leading runner with 39 yards.

The following week, the Falcons were able to find success in both facets of the defense against Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and their struggling offense. They sacked Newton twice and hurried him two more times. They also intercepted him twice.

The common theme in both of those games, is the fact they were able to cause turnovers. They won the turnover margin in both wins. Head Coach Mike Smith says that is key for their success.

“You win the turnover battle in this league, you’re going to win 80 percent of the time,” Smith said. “To win the turnover battle, you’ve got to take it away on defense and you’ve also got to take care of it on offense.”

This season the Falcons have forced 9 interceptions and returned one of them for a touchdown. They also forced eight fumbles this season.

Their upcoming opponent is the Cleveland Browns on Sunday inside the Georgia Dome. This Browns team is +8 in the turnover ratio. Their starting quarterback Brian Hoyer has thrown five interceptions this season. Last week he was held to a quarterback rating of 61.3 on 330 yards passing, with one touchdown and one interception. Houston held them to 58 total yards of rushing.

Falcons veteran cornerback Robert McClain will be a starter on the outside for at least the next couple of weeks, while second year cornerback Robert Alford deals with a wrist injury. He explains what he saw from the Texans defense against this Cleveland offense last week in Ohio.

“They minimized their explosives (big plays),” McClain said. “You have to contain the quarterback and when the quarterback does make mistakes you have to come up with the ball. They kept the ball in front of them pretty much the entire game.”

Getting back to the improvement of this defense, McClain is one of the more veteran players in this young defense. He notices things are better for his group over the past couple of weeks. He also knows what’s contributed to the better play.

“Staying with the plan and believing,” McClain said. “Not to say that guys weren’t believing, you have to fully commit to the plan and fully commit to going out there doing your job/role.”

In terms of stopping the run, the Falcons brought in players like defensive end Tyson Jackson to help add size up front on their defensive line and stop the run.

“I would say as a group we’ve just been playing a whole lot better from the front end as a defensive line,” Jackson said. “The outside linebackers have just been stopping the run and that leads to third down and long. The guys in the secondary do a real good job getting off the field on third down. So, if we continue to play that way stopping the run on first and second down, put pressure and get off the field on third (down) we’ll continue to be successful as a defense.”

The past couple of weeks the Falcons were 5-17 forcing a fourth down against Tampa Bay and 10-13 against Carolina. In terms of the Tampa Bay game it wasn’t about the number of times they forced fourth down, yet the times that they did it. Most of those stops came in the second half.

This week they’re facing a team in Cleveland that has converted only 35 of their 135 third down chances. That averages out to about 32 percent of successful conversions. That has them second to last in the NFL.

This could be a great opportunity for the Falcons to pick up win number five of the season.

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