The Atlanta Falcons earned a first-round bye with the No. 2 seed and are using the week to improve and recharge. Take a look at the guys as they prepare for the playoffs.
The moment occurred somewhere around a month ago. Head coach Dan Quinn was assessing practice from the red zone where he saw something that he had yet to see all season.
For months, Quinn had watched Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen go through their keys and make the corresponding calls. But there was a different sound on this day.
It was faster, louder. More commanding.
"This play is coming…. [enter alert for that here]," Quinn heard his players shout — not whisper like they had previously done.
In that moment, Quinn realized something was different…
His young defense was coming of age.
It was around that same time period that the entire defense had begun watching film together on Fridays immediately following practice, with no coaches.
It's no coincidence that it was around the same time period that the play of this group of individuals began to improve.
Since the bye week, the Falcons are giving up an average of 20.5 points per game. Atlanta's defense was giving up 28.3 through the first 10 weeks.
"When you put the extra work in, it pays off," Quinn said of what he's seen from his defense over the past month. "It's a byproduct of those guys spending time together."
So, if NFL players watch countless hours of film in a week, what makes this session different than others, and why has it paid off for the Falcons?
The group gathers in the defensive backs room for about thirty minutes where free safety Ricardo Allen has a script made. The linebackers, safeties, cornerbacks and defensive line go through about fifteen to twenty clips of their upcoming opponent and talk through the different calls and alerts.
"We went in there and just started coming together as a defense," Allen said of the film session. "We think we know what the defensive line and linebackers do all the time, but maybe they have different coaching here and there. It's good to hear exactly what they are going to be thinking on the play. We hear all the communications from the secondary spot to the defensive line."
Atlanta's defensive scheme is built on their players' ability to play fast and physical.
With an increased level of communication taking place, players are able to make decisions without hesitation, in turn, play faster.
"When you playing faster, it allows you to make more plays," Quinn said of the increased speed of play he's seen from his defense. "That part has been totally critical for us."
Rookie linebackers De'Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones are greatly benefiting from the weekly meetings.
"It's helped me being [that I'm] young tremendously, I know it's helped Deion and us as a group collectively," Campbell said of the film session. "I think it definitely helps us in terms of our level of communication," rookie linebacker Campbell said. "We're usually split up [by position], so for us to all be in one room and communicate our calls and be on the same page, I think it helps tremendously."
The Falcons will head into the playoffs with a defense that's hitting their stride, the No. 1 offense in the NFL and most importantly, a growing belief in one another.