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Early Bird Report: Falcons' suddenly dominant defense ignites conversation


With their 29-3 victory in Charlotte, the Falcons' post-bye dominance has become a slight trend. That's especially true of Atlanta's defense which has held opponents to under 10 points in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 2009.


Atlanta recorded four interceptions, doubling its total from the first 10 weeks, and sacked quarterback Kyle Allen five times. After such a performance, it's easy to see why the Falcons' defense was the No. 1 takeaway for ESPN's Vaughn McClure.

"The Falcons' defense looks like a totally different unit from the one that struggled through most of the season's first half," McClure writes. "And it has sparked a dramatic turnaround, resulting in a two-game win streak and 2-0 start in the NFC South. The defense hasn't allowed a touchdown since the end of the second quarter against Seattle (Week 8), keeping both New Orleans and Carolina out of the end zone. In the past three games, the Falcons have recorded 13 sacks, 25 quarterback hits and four interceptions. 'If we keep playing the way we are as a defense, offense and special teams put together, that's the team we believe we can be,' free safety Ricardo Allen said. 'I know we've got something we can do. I know who we have. We just have to put it out there and not talk about it.'"

To read the rest of ESPN's takeaways from Sunday, click here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today: What we learned from Week 11

In his recap of the Falcons-Panthers game, writer Jelani Scott also mentioned Atlanta's defense. He believes it was the defense that set the tone with De’Vondre Campbell’s early interception, and the Falcons never looked back from there. But, as he writes for his third point, it wasn't just the defense that earned the victory.

"Playing well in all three phases is a weekly talking point for every coach; the Falcons completely lived up to that expectation in today's win. A 38-yard Younghoe Koo field goal closed an eight-play, 55-yard opening drive; Koo went 3-of-4 on the day. Running back Kenjon Barner, who played for the Panthers three separate times -- including a 2018 stint -- in his seven-year career, earned a measure of payback against his former team with a career-best 78-yard punt return to the house to close the first quarter. Matt Ryan (21-of-31, 311 yards, TD) did his part, connecting with Calvin Ridley eight times for a game-high 143 yards and his lone TD. Julio Jones chipped in a solid 91 yards on six catches, and RB Qadree Ollison chipped in a rushing TD to put Atlanta up 20-0 to end the first half. Not having Austin Hooper or Devonta Freeman could have proved troublesome but the load was carried well by Ryan, his wideouts, a committee of RBs and an on-point outing on special teams."

To read the rest of Scott's takeaways at, click here.

AJC: Whoever is calling plays, Falcons defense making them

Dan Quinn has shuffled his staff around this season, and distributed the defensive play-calling duties amongst some assistant coaches, but that's a secondary story to what is happening on the field. The coaches call the plays, yes; but responsibility ultimately falls to the players to execute them. In the last two games, there's been a lot of high-level execution.

"In other words, the Falcons now are playing the fast and physical style that Quinn tried to import from Seattle but has never quite delivered," Michael Cunningham writes in his column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm tempted to wave it away because it's only been two-and-half games. The problem with that is I saw how bad the Falcons were over the first 7-1/2 games, and how good they've been since."

To read the rest of Cunningham's column, click here.

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