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Bair Mail: On Calais Campbell, Ryan Nielsen impact on Falcons defense and Matthew Bergeron

We answer your Falcons questions in this Friday mailbag

The Falcons hadn't started a season with a win since 2017. Snapped that streak with a Week 1 victory over Carolina. Now they try to start with two straight positive results for the first time since that same season on Sunday against the Packers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Oddly enough, the 2017 Falcons beat Green Bay to go 2-0 that year and made it three straight with a win over Detroit, a team the Falcons face in, well, Week 3.

Now let's climb out of that statistical rabbit hole and focus on the topics important to a Sunday showdown with Green Bay, especially those you want to discuss, in this Friday edition of Bair Mail.


Keith Cruisse from Rome, Ga.

Was excited to see Calais Campbell in Falcons colors on Sunday. How do you think he played?

Bair: Calais Campbell is one sack away from No. 100 in his illustrious career, and the veteran defensive lineman said he might've been pressing a bit trying to get it. Defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen didn't sense that during the game and, while he didn't hit a major milestone against Carolina, he was impactful during the game.

He had a quarterback hit and a few pressures. Plus, he was ever-so-close to sacking Bryce Young deep in Panthers territory. While he might not lead the league in sacks at this age, it's a safe bet he'll come through big a few times during the season.

His influence goes well beyond the numbers, anyway, as defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen says here.

"Everywhere that he's been, he's made such an impact and he's doing the same thing here," Nielsen said. "He played a really solid football game, he really did. Maybe the numbers or whatever—numbers whatever, but the most important thing is winning, and he affected the game. That's what we want to do upfront, affect the game. So, when the guys see him doing those things, they say 'I'm going to work a little bit harder' or 'I'm going to do the stuff that he was doing'. It just helps overall with the position group and the whole unit."

David Hicks from Marshalltown, Iowa

We saw a much improved (and hyped) defense last Sunday against Carolina. Last year we gave up 34 and 25 points against that team. Granted, it was against a rookie QB this year, but only giving up 10 points is awesome. The influx of talent is huge, but do you think the new coaches called a better defensive game? The team looked different. to me.

Bair: It's a different scheme so it's bound to look different. There's no doubt coaches will say it's a players' game and the players will say coaches put them in position to make plays. They're both right and, yes, it's a two-way street.

This defense is waaaaaaay more talented than in years past. I also think coordinator Ryan Nielsen has established a ton of how the Falcons play. We've all heard it before: Attack and be aggressive. We saw that in the second half especially when the pass rush turned it on and shut the door on the Panthers' comeback hopes.

I think that talent, buy-in and attitude win you football games more than anything else. In terms of play calling and the system, I think it fits the talent on hand. Nielsen did a good job calling plays and getting his guys ready, though we can't forget about Jerry Gray's influence on this process, especially in terms of game planning.

The biggest thing in all the numbers: The Panthers were 5-for-16 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down, including that massive second-quarter stop deep in Falcons territory. The Falcons were good on critical downs. They took the ball away and capitalized on Carolina deficiencies. Can they do it against Green Bay? Trends, way more than a singular game, will tell us about this unit and how Ryan Nielsen and others have helped transform it.

Remi Tremblay from Fredericton, Canada

Good day, sir. As a French Canadian and specially from Québec City, you can imagine that I am a Matthew Bergeron's fan. I would like to know what you think about is play with the Falcons so Far ?

Bair: His name didn't show up in a negative way on Sunday, in his NFL debut. That in itself is a win and a solid start for someone who hadn't played the guard position in a regular-season NFL game. He didn't allow any quarterback pressures, which is another plus.

He can certainly be better in the run game, but he had a difficult task with the Panthers defensive interior. There's room to improve, but Matthew Bergeron did well considering it was his NFL debut.

This Throwback Thursday, we're taking at look back at the Falcons vs Packers match-up through history as we gear up for Sunday's game against the Packers in Week 2.

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