FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons went into their bye week having played the best defensive game of the season since Week 1. They held Giants running back Saquon Barkley to just 43 rushing yards, his second-lowest total so far. They also sacked Eli Manning four times and held New York's offense to 20 points, also its second-lowest total point total of the year.
And from what head coach Dan Quinn has seen in practice over the past few weeks, he's encouraged about the direction his defense is headed in as they get ready to begin the second half of the season.
It all starts with the communication he's hearing from his defensive players before the ball is snapped.
"Generally, we can hear good defense," Quinn said. "I told them today, by how it sounds prior to the snap, in snap, that kind of communication. Now I'm hearing that on a more regular basis, and that's music to my ears, that's for sure."
It's worth noting that not only did the Falcons' defense take a hit when Deion Jones, Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal went down with serious injuries, they also lost two of their best communicators.
Replacing that element would of course take time with different players having to step into that role and they have.
Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell has been one of the players who has stepped up in this regard. Campbell has been the player distributing the play-calls from defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel to the rest of the defense.
But it's not just on Campbell to make sure everyone is on the same page. It takes all 11 players on defense to execute consistently, that's where communication on all levels is key.
That's why having Grady Jarrett back healthy to anchor the defensive line becomes an even bigger plus for the Falcons' defense as they continue to progress.
Jarrett is the leader of Atlanta's defensive line and when he was sidelined for two games with an ankle injury, the Falcons were without three of their starters who predominantly play in the middle of the field where most of the communications occurs.
He's also a big part of the Falcons' pass rush. And it was evident in the win over the Giants as he provided a spark to the lineup.
"Certainly getting Grady (Jarrett) back was a real factor," Quinn said. "I love the combination of him and Jack (Crawford) inside. He's got a presence about him, quickness. So I thought in that game our pass rush turned into more of a vision, what I hoped he could look like. So when we have that group out there, I like the speed and how they play."
Those are just a few things that have Quinn encouraged about where his defense is headed.
Quinn firmly believes the Falcons' best football is in front of them and with an important NFC road game against the (5-2) Washington Redskins coming up this weekend, they'll certainly need their best.