Fal­cons’ D show­ing signs of re­cov­ery

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL SPORTS - By Charles Odum AP Sports Writer

There is re­newed op­ti­mism for At­lanta’s de­fense and new hope for the Fal­cons’ sea­son that seemed lost fol­low­ing a 1-4 start.

The over­all de­fen­sive sta­tis­tics are still ugly, but two straight wins and im­proved play from fill-in starters com­bined to leave Fal­cons coach Dan Quinn up­beat dur­ing the team’s bye week.

“Let’s call it like it is, we hadn’t per­formed to the level that we wanted to de­fen­sively,” Quinn said last week. “But this past week I re­ally felt a shift take place. The guys that now have been play­ing to­gether for a few weeks, I saw them rise to the oc­ca­sion in that re­gard.”

Fol­low­ing the off week, the Fal­cons play at Wash­ing­ton on Nov. 4, fol­lowed by an­other road game at Cleve­land.

For a team with six play­ers on in­jured re­serve, in­clud­ing three de­fen­sive starters, im­proved health is espe­cially im­por­tant for the Fal­cons (3-4). De­fen­sive tackle Grady Jar­rett had two sacks in Mon­day night’s 23-20 win over the New York Gi­ants af­ter miss­ing two weeks with an an­kle in­jury.

“Get­ting Grady back out there is huge,” said wide re­ceiver Julio Jones. “He’s a leader. What he brings to the de­fen­sive line and his en­ergy is huge.”

Jar­rett says the Fal­cons, only two years re­moved from their 2016 Su­per Bowl sea­son, can still make a third straight play­off ap­pear­ance.

“We un­der­stand that ev­ery­thing we want is still ahead of us,” Jar­rett said. “We are go­ing to ap­proach it that way. We are not go­ing to let one win stay on our mind too long, and we are not go­ing to let a loss stay on our mind . ... We have a long way to go and we are a group of tough guys that won’t give up.”

Rookie line­backer Foye Olu­okun, gain­ing con­fi­dence and ex­pe­ri­ence in his fill-in starter’s role af­ter Deion Jones was placed on IR, had six stops against the Gi­ants. Sec­ond-year de­fen­sive end Takk McKin­ley added a sack, giv­ing him a team-lead­ing 5 ½ for the year.

/ At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion-Cur­tis Comp­ton

Fal­cons de­fen­sive tackle Grady Jar­rett re­acts af­ter sack­ing Gi­ants quar­ter­back Eli Man­ning dur­ing the game in At­lanta.

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