It was only fitting that even after the clock ran out on Sunday’s blowout victory over the Houston Texans, the Atlanta Falcons still weren’t done scoring on defense.
Seconds after the game clock hit 0:00, Falcons linebacker Nathan Stupar was still running the ball 90-plus yards in the other direction for a touchdown, having just recovered Atlanta’s third forced fumble of the day. Their second defensive TD of the game made it 48-21, and a 4-0 start was in the books for the Falcons.
It’s the third time since 2004 that the Falcons have won each of their first four games. The other two times they did it, in 2004 and 2012, they went to the NFC Championship game. We won’t concern ourselves with what happened in those ballgames, but it’s a good omen for a rebuilding franchise.
(Also read: This kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen to us)
After rookie running back Tevin Coleman went down with a broken rib in Week 2, many Falcons fans – myself included – assumed that would start a chain reaction. The running game would likely take a huge hit, which would lead to more ineffectiveness in the passing game.
But then Devonta Freeman showed up.
In his first two career starts, Freeman has scored three times in each. Before these last two games, that had never happened in the modern NFL era, according to Elias. Freeman looks like he’s trying to earn a starting spot, and it’s hard to deny him playing time when he runs like this.
Also emerging as a star is cornerback Desmond Trufant. His pass breakups are elite, displaying a hand-eye coordination that few on this planet have. Quarterbacks have almost stopped throwing his way altogether, so he has to find other ways to make an impact.
When Texans running back Arian Foster fumbled the ball, Trufant scooped it and took it to the end zone for a score. Mission accomplished.
Though this Falcons team is still incomplete, at times, head coach Dan Quinn has the defense looking more like Seattle than the defense that has played in Atlanta the past few years. They’re aggressive, hard-hitting and aren’t afraid to put points on the board.
As any team should do when facing an inferior opponent, the Falcons quickly built a massive 42-0 lead, which allowed the starters to get some much-needed rest late in the game. Wide receiver Julio Jones, who has been as overused as he’s been incredible, had just four catches for 38 yards on Sunday, but that low-stress game will pay off down the road as he attempts to keep stay healthy for the entire regular season.
Next up for the Falcons is a hugely important home game against the Washington Redskins. It’s another winnable game that Atlanta needs to take, because four days later, they’ll be in the Superdome for Thursday night showdown with the New Orleans Saints that’s going to be a big challenge on short rest. A loss to Washington very well could mean a 4-2 record after six games.
But if the Falcons beat Washington next Sunday, I say they should keep their first-stringers home and see how the backups do against a mediocre Saints team. Talk about sending a message.
Photo: AP/John Bazemore