Dan Quinn built not ‘Seattle’ East but ‘Atlanta Now’—a defense predicated on young stars playing fast and physical, with some attitude too. The concept will face its toughest test against Aaron Rodgers and the Pack  

By Peter King
January 20, 2017

Top six tacklers for the Falcons in their 36-20 NFC playoff win over Seattle last weekend:

Player, Pos NFL Year Tackles
Keanu Neal, S R 9
Deion Jones, LB R 5
De’Vondre Campbell, LB R 4
Jalen Collins, CB 2 4
Grady Jarrett, DT 2 4
Brian Poole, LB R 4
 
 

Atlanta’s seventh rookie or second-year starter, linebacker Vic Beasley, led the NFL in sacks this year with 15.5.

Get the picture? Something pretty good is happening in Atlanta, and it’s on the opposite side of the ball from the prospective MVP, and the play of all new kids is likely going to determine whether the Falcons beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

• HOW ATLANTA’S D GOT GOOD, FAST: Andy Benoit on Dan Quinn’s critical midseason tweak that allowed his young defenders to come into their own

* * *

At one point in this win over Seattle, late in the game, Fox had a graphic on the screen that said on 34 pass-drops by Russell Wilson, he’d been sacked, hit or pressured on 27 of them. I mentioned the stat to Quinn.

“Well,” Quinn, “that’s the idea.”

As that game went on, it wasn’t hard to see that Quinn, in his second year as Atlanta’s coach after serving as Seattle’s defensive coordinator for two years, had gone back to the future. The speed and playmaking—and, to some degree, also the chippiness and physicality—of Seattle’s defense in 2013 and 2014 … that is what Atlanta is becoming. “I never set out to create Seattle East,” Quinn said this week. “I wanted to create Atlanta Now.”

Perhaps, but there’s no question Atlanta Now is mindful of the Pete Carroll/Quinn defense that took Seattle to two Super Bowls. There’s a team aspect to the tackling. There’s a variety of fronts and the ability of Beasley to rush (like you saw Whitney Mercilus do for Houston up the gut against Tom Brady last week) from game-plan-specific spots when the situation calls for it. There’s the folding in of young players right away to a winning unit, the same way Seattle’s done it since Carroll took over. Youth is good.

Keanu Neal and Deion Jones lasso Larry Fitzgerald in November.
Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Jones and Rodgers are sure to tango again on Sunday.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

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