The Falcons’ offense has been great. Their defense has not

Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) celebrates his touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Touchdown machine Tevin Coleman. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

As someone who criticized the Atlanta Falcons rather heavily after their opening loss to Tampa Bay, fairness compels me to mention that Football Outsiders now gives them a 42.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, which is slightly better odds than FO hands the Carolina Panthers, who’ll visit the doomed Dome this weekend. Indeed, the Falcons are now the favorite to win the NFC South.

Which goes to show: In the NFL, things can change really fast. After the Week 1 loss, the same Football Outsiders assessed the Falcons’ chance of qualifying for postseason as 2.4 percent while handing them a 7.1 percent chance of picking No. 1 in the 2017. And if you’d asked me in the days after Tampa Bay if I expected the Falcons to be 2-1 headed to October, I’d have said, “Heck, no.” As mentioned then, they didn’t figure to be favored in any game until the Chargers come here on Oct. 23.

Sure enough, they haven’t been favored since the Tampa Bay loss and aren’t favored this week and surely won’t be when they head to Denver and then Seattle. Still, they’re 2-1, which is as good as you can do after starting 0-1, and they’re leading the South and they have the NFL’s best offense. Kyle Shanahan for president!

But here’s the thing: The Falcons also have the league’s 30th-ranked (of 32) defense, and the only teams more pliant are two the Falcons just beat. Stats can be weird, but these are really odd: The Falcons, Raiders and Saints  — who’ve just had their own little round-robin — are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in total offense and Nos. 30, 31 and 32 in total defense.

Maybe that means those three are so irresistible no defense can stop them. Maybe it means their defenses are so bad they can’t stop anybody. (Tampa Bay, the Falcons’ other opponent to date, ranks No. 9 in offense and No. 19 in defense.)

The Falcons haven’t yet gained fewer than 374 yards in a game; they also haven’t yielded fewer than 371. At such a moment, Football Outsiders’ DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) ratings are usually a help, but here they tell us what the raw numbers suggest: Through three games, DVOA rates the Falcons as having the NFL’s second-best offense — and the best special teams — and the absolute worst defense.

Perhaps that will change when the Panthers arrive. (They have DVOA’s No. 18 offense and No. 6 defense.) Perhaps not. But the way the Falcons have started indicates that they’ll need to win shootouts if they’re to win at all, and for that to happen we must take on faith than Shanahan’s offense will keep scoring touchdowns (nine in the past two games after two versus Tampa Bay) and that the absence of a defense will be no deterrent to winning.

And then we might ask: Wasn’t Dan Quinn supposed to be a defensive coach?

Reader Comments 0

22 comments
DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I think the defense knows it's a liability and the offense has carried the team. But as a fan, I'm hoping that being at home and with a solid win on the road against the Saints will give them the incentive to play well and get off the field on third down.

TG88
TG88

Coach u cant teach and old dog new tricks. A player has to have the skills or talent to pass rush or they dont  this is not something u can teach. You tried that last season and it didn't work so there is no reason to think it will now....We need a pass rushers lets trade a draft pick for one maybe Ravens Elvis D  He is long on the tooth u might be able to get him for a 3rd or 4th rounder..

WhiteShoes
WhiteShoes

As I've said, these next three games will define the Falcons.  Need to somehow steal a win at home this week and we are immediately relevant.  I do think the Falcons will keep up on the offensive side as the weapons and scheme will work against anyone.  You cannot contain everyone and Ryan is currently seeing clearly as it show with the reduced looks toward Julio.  Soon teams will need to account for the other weapons which will make Jones more available. Its a week to week process...CAR will now need to pay closer attention to Tamme, Coleman, Hary/Sanu, etc.  Freeman is running with authority which he wasn't doing before...he was stuttering at the line.


The defense will continue to struggle, yes, but it won't change the ability of this offense to keep up because many teams won't simply be able to manage the weapons.  Negative comments are useless. Accept this team for what they are and merely hope the offense can keep us in the conversation as the efforts to mature as a defense are given time to mature.  It is their identity much like any NFL team who has rode offense over defense in the past.  It is a formula that has proven to work as long as the offense can pick up any slack needed to offset the defensive woes.  Hang in there fans...this can work.

Dawgsandbones9
Dawgsandbones9

LOL!

Yep! Different year, same Old Falcons!

They are exactly like they were during the Coach Smith years!

They hire a Defensive HC, yet their defense is PUTRID and their offense scores lights out.

And just like the old teams, whenever they play a team with a top 10 defense and a top 20 offense, they'll lose or get embarrassed 40% of the time.

Man this crap gets old...

TOJacket
TOJacket

You should be used to it being a dawg fan.

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

I put this on Dimitroff for missing on virtually every high draft pick on that side of the ball along with past their prime free agents with all respect to Freeney. As it stands we are looking at a rebuild on the defensive line on the interior with the exception of Grady Jarrett along a legit end who has it in terms of rushing the passer. Jones and Campbell look great but how long has Dimitroff had to solidify the linebacking corps? Spoon was a great pick but couldn't stay healthy. Then there's the backend where Allen looks solid but not a playmaker and with Trufant at least at Pro Bowl level....however he's in for a payday being in his 5th year and oh yeah Alford is in his walk year with an unproven Jalen Collins behind him. This team will have to hit on every defensive pick for the next two years to restore this team to some respectability as it's obvious they are not interesting in paying top dollar on that side of the ball. 

TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

@ATLAquarius First 2 picks in 2016 defense: Keanu Neal, Deion Jones. In 2015 defense: Vic Beasley, Jalen Collins. In 2014 (Jake Matthews offense) and Hageman. In 2013 defense: Trufant and Alford. Most of his picks are high defensive picks not offensive.

Birdfanforlife
Birdfanforlife

We can play better defense. We have a lot of new players and young players. If they get it - I see some speed and some talent. On the flip side our offense will almost certainly slow down. You cannot keep up this pace - its just not possible. We will have to steal a game from Carolina, and take 1 of three from seattle greenbay and philly. Then we have to hold serve against new orleans, tampa, LA Rams and SF. If we do, we can be a wild card at 10-6. Its a tough road but we can do it. 

Railroadtracgang
Railroadtracgang

@Birdfanforlife 10-6 with this schedule would be a really good accomplishment and one of the better seasons in franchise history- top 10 if that happens. 

miked706
miked706

The team hasn't really played a good defense yet.  They will the next 3 weeks.  Dan Quinn doesn't seem to be that good of a defensive coach.  They hired a guy who was suppose to know defense but this is still the same defense of old.  We can't stop the run.  Can't cover over the middle of the field and can't get pressure on the QB.  It's sad that a defense has been bad like the Saints and the Falcons all these years and nothing has changed.   

kevkat
kevkat

I think we already know about the defense being what it is so this news isn't groundbreaking. I would like for Quinn to be more vocal during interviews regarding his disappointment in the defense. Maybe calling them out more would help. 

TonyHut
TonyHut

A mediocre college offense could score on this Falcon defense. Crap all a QB has to do is throw a 1 yard pass and the next thing you know the opposing recievers are 5 to 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage before a defender even enters the picture. Their linebackers line up at safety, the CB's are a full 10 yards off the WR's and the Safeties aren't even in the picture when the ball is snapped. If Quinn is a defensive guru then I'm brain surgeon.

TideDawg
TideDawg

Right now the Falcons can't stop anybody.They can't stop the run and against a good defense they can't outscore anybody. 8-8 looks pretty good if they can get there and it might get them in the playoffs for one game.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

We're coming off a short week.  Carolina can run the ball.  We can't stop the run. We haven't  played against a decent defense since Tampa Bay.


I have enjoyed the last two games immensely.  Ryan looks good. 


Newton has been getting beat up a bit lately.  Not sure the Falcons can put any pressure on him though.


This game may say a lot about the Falcons.





TOJacket
TOJacket

Maybe he is getting ready to start pouting ?That always helps.

Railroadtracgang
Railroadtracgang

And to many it will still be Ryan's fault if they lose to any of the next 3 teams. Or all of them is possible. It's now the defense turn to win a game vs one of these next 3. Toughest stretch for any team in the NFL this season by the way. 

Railroadtracgang
Railroadtracgang

@TOJacket Yes. Ole Kirb has a shot to make everyone forget about last week. On paper doesnt look good. Another senior qb etc etc vs the freshman.