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Nfl Week 16 Winners And Losers: Atlanta Stays Alive... Grantland


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The Falcons Front Seven

Atlanta’s roster has its share of holes, but for most of this season, its toothless pass rush has been the biggest one. By almost any measure, the Falcons front four is kinder to quarterbacks than all but one or two others in the league. Before yesterday, Atlanta ranked 31st in pressure rate1 and last in sack rate. A sack-free approach is one of the many reasons the Falcons defense was hanging out at the bottom of the league through 15 weeks. Still, none of that stopped them from ruining Drew Brees’s afternoon and the Saints’ season.

The Falcons got to Brees five times, hit him six more, and forced him to get rid of the ball quicker than he wanted to all day long. Atlanta’s five sacks are nearly 30 percent of what it had on the season. And the run defense wasn’t too bad, either. Mark Ingram managed just 2.9 yards on his 13 carries, and the longest run of the day for New Orleans came from Brees. For the second straight week, the Falcons held up against the run, an area that’s been almost as bad as their pass defense all season.

With the way Atlanta’s defense played, Matt Ryan’s 322 yards and 75 percent completion rate were more than enough to put the Saints away. And more importantly, it was more than enough to put Atlanta’s future in its own hands next week against Carolina. A 7-9 division winner can only be so scary, but with a Week 17 Falcons win, either the Cardinals or Seahawks will be heading to Atlanta. Remember: The last time a division winner was a punch line, the punch line won.


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