The Falcons defense has been much maligned in recent weeks. Outside of a solid outing in Tampa, the group has given up 28 or more points in its three other contests. But while the Falcons have turned in a pretty mediocre defensive performance thus far, through the first four games Atlanta actually has the No. 10 rushing defense in the league.
Why? Well, the Falcons rushing defense has actually been very consistent under the stewardship Mike Smith and BVG. There's also the sentiment that opponents would rather turn to the passing and attack a perceived weakness, given the lack of a pass rush. But a major reason the Falcons have been so good against the run? Two, actually: Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon.
In only four games, 5-0 and 'Spoon have racked up 37 and 38 total tackles, respectively. That's good enough to count both among the top seven tacklers in the NFL.
Lofton, coming off of super-secret offseason knee surgery, claimed he felt he had regained his explosiveness in training camp and is certainly playing like it. His coverage skills have certainly improved as well: if you'll remember last week, he picked off Tarvaris Jackson while playing in underneath coverage.
As for Weatherspoon, he has been phenomenal. Seemingly flying to the football on almost every play, he has shown so far that his injury-riddled rookie year was a complete fluke. The game is seemingly moving at a much slower pace for him, and his performance on the field has been an extremely pleasant surprise. Of his 38 tackles, a league-high 30 were recorded as unassissted, and four went for a loss.
As I've mentioned, the Falcons have been great against the run. Yes, they shut down Marshawn Lynch. But they've also kept the yardage down against great rushers like LeGarrette Blount, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte so far this season.
What's even better, though, is how they've been against tight ends. Over the first four games, the Falcons defense has allowed opposing tight ends only 124 yards on 13 catches (and zero touchdowns). Now, obviously DeCoud and Moore deserve partial credit as well. But given how often BVG puts both of those guys back in zone coverage, Lofton and 'Spoon are due a heap of praise as well.
Even the advanced statistics show that both have been great. Both are top seven in Tackle Factor, meaning if they keep this pace up they'll make 54 more tackles than expected. Both were also top twenty in Win Probability added, as well. In short, they've been good in every sense of the word. They've definitely been Pro-Bowl caliber, and without a doubt the best on the Falcons defense.
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