FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Safety Jessie Bates III put on a show during the Atlanta Falcons' season-opening win over the Carolina Panthers last Sunday that has garnered national attention and recognition.
So much so, the NFL named Bates its NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday. The honor is a first for the 26-year-old veteran.
Bates was single-handedly responsible for three turnovers in the Falcons' 24-10 victory. Those turnovers led to 17 points.
Bates picked off Panthers quarterback Bryce Young twice – once in the first quarter, returned for 3 yards, and then again in the third quarter, down at the spot of the catch.
His final turnover also came in the third quarter but via a forced fumble. Bates managed to get the ball lose while tackling Panthers running back Miles Sanders to stop a 10-yard run. Falcons linebacker Lorenzo Carter recovered the fumble.
On top of all that, Bates' 10 combined tackles tied Atlanta linebacker Troy Andersen for the team-high mark.
Last Sunday just so happened to be Bates' Falcons debut, too.
"It felt amazing, man," Bates said after the Week 1 game. "It's a lot of hard work that a lot of people don't see — not just for me, for my teammates — from where we started in OTAs. When I first got here, I knew that we could do something special, and this is just the beginning of it."
Bates signed with the Falcons back in March as a free agent. He had spent the previous five years with the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him out of Wake Forest with a second-round pick in 2018. He now has 16 interceptions and four forced fumbles in his career.
Through his previous 79 games, Bates never had a showing with more than one interception. He'd had a game with two turnovers before – an interception and a forced fumble – but never three.
Last Sunday really was a career performance for Bates.