If you really want to know how far the Atlanta defense has come, look no further than defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson. Once considered a draft bust because he never developed into a pass-rushing defensive end, Anderson helped make one of the biggest plays of Atlanta’s season in Sunday’s 27-21 victory against Tampa Bay.
It came with the Buccaneers making a late-game drive and they could have tied the game with a touchdown and won it with an extra point. Facing a fourth and 1 at the Atlanta 2-yard line, the Bucs gave the ball to running back LeGarrette Blount, who has shown a lot of power in his young career.
But the Falcons, who haven’t always been known for having a hard-nosed defense, didn’t give an inch. That’s largely because Anderson, who has been getting a lot of playing time as a defensive tackle, got good penetration. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas came up behind him and closed a potential hole for Blount.
The work of Nicholas and Anderson allowed safety Thomas DeCoud to come up and tackle Blount for no gain. The ball went over to the Falcons and they ran out the clock.