Falcons’ D showing signs of recovery
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.
Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett reacts after sacking Giants quarterback Eli Manning during the game in Atlanta.