The Atlanta Falcons are far from having a great defense.
But, little by little, they’re taking small steps in the right direction. Take the biggest positive for the Falcons this season. Cornerback Desmond Trufant has emerged as the leader of the defense. That’s hugely important because the Falcons didn’t have a defensive leader.
“Well, you nailed it on Trufant,’’ coach Dan Quin said, ‘’I’ve been so impressed by that. His attitude and the way he talks to his guys who are the defensive backs, he’s got swagger and attitude to how he plays it. He’s a hell of a competitor, and if there’s a way that he can help, like pull somebody with him, I can promise you he’s done that.’’
Trufant may have to be better than ever this Sunday because he has a huge talent. He has to try to slow Aaron Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Of course having Trufant leading the defense night not matter all that much. It didn’t matter last week when San Diego beat Atlanta 33-3, and it hasn’t mattered much all season.
That’s not sitting well with Trufant.
“It’s definitely frustrating,’’ Trufant said. “Nobody is going to come in and save us. It’s us. We have to stand up at the end of the day’’
Trufant is absolutely right on that. The Falcons have to stand up and be a good defense on their own. Although the defense hasn’t played the way Atlanta does, there have been some growth spurts in different areas.
Then there is pass-rushing linebacker Vic Beasley. He looked like a bust as a rookie last season. But no more. Beasley already has more sacks this year than last year, and the Falcons believe he can be a star as he has been a terror coming off the edge for Atlanta in the last few games.
But that’s about it. Trufant and Beasley are playing well. But show me another Atlanta defensive player that’s producing? Give up? That’s because there aren’t any.
The Falcons defense, much like Dallas’, is built around bending but not breaking.
“The crazy thing about this defense is it’s built not to give up explosive plays,’’ free safety Ricardo Allen said. ‘’I didn’t know that stats (26 plays of 20-plus yards). That’s actually a really bad stat. If we don’t give up big plays, can’t just methodically beat us down the field because we get the ball out, we fight. We fight, we get tips and we get overthrows. We work, man.’’
The bend-but-don’t-break ideology is utilized by teams that don’t have the level of talent to put the clamps on opposing offenses. They believe in limiting big plays so that an offense has to methodically drive down the field, which gives the defense more opportunities to force a turnover.
The Falcons defense may not be able to put the clamps on opposing teams right now but with Trufant and Beasley in the fold, they have foundational pieces to build around.