Frank Reich expects Colts to face ‘a top-level defense’ against Falcons

The Falcons’ defense led the way in their 24-20 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, and they’ve got the attention of Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich.

“They made some plays and were getting good pressure on the quarterback,” Reich said. “I thought they did a good job of stopping the Eagles’ rushing attack and making them one dimensional where their pass rushers could just tee off a little bit and get pressure on Carson [Wentz]. We expect a top-level defense.”

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Atlanta (1-1) held Philadelphia to just 49 yards on the ground and the Falcons sacked Wentz three times and hit him 10 times throughout the game. It was the type of performance Falcons coach Dan Quinn was looking for after a tough outing in the team’s season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Falcons will need to repeat the effort against a good Colts offense that features playmakers like wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Marlon Mack.

“Marlon has good patience and acceleration,” Reich said. “He’s got good speed; he’s got strength, he runs through arm tackles. But really, I just think it’s his patience and vision to see things to understand what we’re doing, to be able to accelerate, is really what I think makes him special.”

Mack’s season began in spectacular fashion, as he carried the ball 25 times for 174 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown run against the Los Angeles Chargers. Behind a very good offensive line, Mack’s big-play ability can jumpstart Indianapolis’s offense at any moment, and the Colts (1-1) are currently second in the NFL with an average of 185 rushing yards per game.

The Colts are also very efficient in critical aspects of the game, offensively. They have converted 51.8 percent of their third-down chances, which ranks eighth in the NFL, and they are tied for the third-best red-zone offense, scoring a touchdown 83.3 percent of the time.

“Number one, this is a good offensive line, all the way, across the board. Both tackles, both guards, both center, they’ve got the size, they’ve got the ability to pull and get out on the edge. One of the things we’ve certainly been impressed with Mack is his vision. To bounce it outside, or hey, here’s the crease to go take it. He’s had some long, explosive runs.”

Statistically, the Falcons have one of the league’s top defenses through two weeks. The Falcons are allowing 277.5 yards per game, which is the third-best mark in the NFL, and they have the best pass defense, giving up just 167 yards per game through the air. Those stats come with a bit of a caveat, however, given the shorter fields the Vikings had to work with in Week 1.

And although the Falcons limited the Eagles on the ground, the Vikings gained 172 rushing yards in Week 1. Given what Mack can do if he gets in space, the Falcons will need to be very sound defensively.

Still, it’s a positive start for a unit looking to rebound from a tough 2018 campaign. Making their presence felt against a Colts team with a very talented roster would go a long way in continuing to establish their identity for the 2019 season.

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