EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Atlanta Falcons needed someone to step up and show defensive leadership. Veteran strong safety William Moore took the lead in Sunday's 24-20 win over the New York Giants.
Moments after the Falcons gave up a third-quarter touchdown pass from Eli Manning to tight end Larry Donnell, Moore could be seen barking at his fellow defensive backs on the sideline. It was a profanity-filled tirade that served its purpose.
Moore was sick of seeing the Falcons give up touchdowns and explosive plays, like the 67-yard, catch-and-runs score by Odell Beckham Jr. off a quick slant. The Falcons surrendered six plays of 18-plus yards from the 12-minute, 59-second mark of the second quarter to the 8:38 mark of the third quarter.
"I just said that we were way better than that," Moore said. "I said that we just needed to know our assignments. They shouldn't have been catching things like that. I said, 'I would put my DBs against any receiver, any day.' And they knew that. It was about the whole group, including me. We needed to get back in position to be on our stuff.
"I saw what had just happened and what was about to happen. New York was one of those teams that you don't want to get them going, and they were starting to get going again. They were getting chemistry going with Eli and the rest of the receivers. I told them, 'We need to be on our stuff. Once we know what we're doing, we can play faster and dominate anybody.' And the guys responded big. We stood up."
It's probably no coincidence the defense came up with their biggest play of the day on the possession immediately after Moore's tirade. It wasn't a DB, but Kroy Biermann's strip sack of Manning, which resulted in a fumble recovery by Paul Soliai, helped change the momentum in the Falcons' favor as they overcame a 20-10 deficit.
The defensive backs, specifically Robert Alford, tightened up their defense on Beckham, who finished with seven catches for 146 yards and the touchdown but had one catch for seven yards in the second half. Falcons coach Dan Quinn elected to play his defense without altering the coverage, keeping Alford and Desmond Trufant on their respective sides without asking Trufant to shadow Beckham.
"It was very rewarding," Alford said. "The one thing coach always preaches about is us just finishing. ... The game is never over in the first half. There's always the second half. Coach always talks about that at practice, and we put it to the test today with a victory."
Alford reflected on Moore's fiery words as the impact it had.
"The type of players we are, we're all competitors out here, and if any touchdown is being scored, we're taking it personal," Alford said. "It's on the whole defense to try to eliminate [mistakes]. Once we look at it on film, we'll have a better perspective on how we should have played it."
Free safety Ricardo Allen, who got benched a series for missing the tackle on Beckham's long play, took Moore's message to heart.
"It means that he cares," Allen said. "We work. We go for this every day. He knows we were better than what we were putting out there on the film. So he was saying, 'Let's go. Let's pick this up.' We appreciated that.
"Nobody gave up. You could tell that somebody who's yelling at us like that and getting on us cares and knows what we're capable of. So, let's go finish."
The Falcons finished, indeed. But their work is far from complete. They can't afford to give up as many big plays as they did Sunday. And they have to tackle better, as a whole, moving forward. The film won't lie.
"You've got to know your shots," Moore said. "When teams see something on film, they're going to keep coming back to it. It's one of those split-second decision you make when you're going up there. The game is so quick. All it takes is one little flinch, and there they go. We've got to know when to take those shots."