Falcons DL Marlon Davidson not ready to move to CB after big interception

120521 Atlanta: Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (right) and teammates react after defensive lineman Marlon Davidson intercepts Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady for a pick six at the end of the second quarter in a NFL football game on Sunday, Dec 5, 2021, in Atlanta.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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120521 Atlanta: Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (right) and teammates react after defensive lineman Marlon Davidson intercepts Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady for a pick six at the end of the second quarter in a NFL football game on Sunday, Dec 5, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons defensive tackle Marlon Davidson was a social-media superstar after his electric 3-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

“It was bizarre, from Twitter to Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok,” Davidson said. “I was like dang, OK. Everything. It was just crazy.”

Davidson’s play was one of the few Falcons highlights in the 30-17 loss to the Buccaneers. He’s hoping to turn in more big plays when the Falcons (5-7) play the Carolina Panthers (5-7) in an NFC South rematch at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

Falcons coach Arthur Smith has discussed the importance of the final minutes of the first half being a key part of situational football.

With 27 seconds to go before halftime, Davidson’s football instincts took over and helped him find the football. His touchdown made the score 20-17, and the Falcons were set to receive the kickoff after halftime with a chance to take the lead.

“I heard from a lot of people,” Davidson said. “The one that shocked me the most, I heard from (former Falcons interim) coach Raheem Morris. Coach Raheem had my back a lot last year. He felt like I was one his guys last year. He hit me up and was like ‘Congrats. That’s big-time Bro.’ That meant a lot to me.”

Davidson was drafted in the second round (47th overall) in the 2020 draft. Thus far, his career has been slowed by injuries. He played 124 snaps (24%) as a rookie.

He’s part of the defensive line rotation and has played 224 defensive snaps (35%) this season. He has 19 tackles, a sack, quarterback hit and a tackle for loss in nine games.

“He’s like all of our guys, there’s some things he’s got to work on week to week,” Smith said. “Things we can all do better, but it was nice to see Marlon make a play. To have the awareness right there on the screen, and it was a big play for us.”

The Falcons’ offense fumbled on the first possession of the third quarter, missing the chance to take the lead, but that didn’t minimize Davidson’s play.

A force of nature moved Davidson to get into position to make the interception.

“Man, I don’t even know how it happened,” Davidson said. “Just blessed. I couldn’t even tell you. I’m still kind of shaken up about it. It was just me making a football play.”

He thought about it more and figured out what happened.

“I was coming out for contain, but then one of my other guys already had contain,” Davidson said. “I (saw) the back and just veered off. Something just pulled me that way. I just made a football play.”

Davidson was lined up next to Dante Fowler, who rushed inside. Davidson went out to his right and stepped in front of running back Leonard Fournette. He stuck out his right hand out gathered in his first NFL interception.

Cornerback Darren Hall was the first to come over and hug Davidson. Then Steven Means jumped on his back before Grady Jarrett made it to the party scene.

“I had a sack dance (planned),” Davidson said. “It was going to be real nice on my sack dance. I wasn’t expecting an interception dance. So, it was kind of surprising. Man, it was one of those deals where I had to do something.”

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady had been cutting up the Falcons defense via the air.

“Of course, it’s a highlight,” Davidson said. “It was Tom Brady. Who wouldn’t want to do something good against Tom Brady. There are a lot of defensive backs that haven’t (intercepted Brady).”

Davidson recalled a pre-draft interview with an NFL team.

“Coming into the league, they were like what is the one thing you want to do, and I was like, ‘sack Tom Brady,’ ” Davidson said. “I got the first sack of my career against Tom Brady in the first game against Tampa, and then I come back with an interception for a touchdown. Man, it’s like, what else can you ask for.”

Davidson made the interception look easy. He traced it to playing catch with the other defensive linemen before practice starts.

“I thought I was going to run about 30 yards,” Davidson said. “But we do this stuff all the time just playing around before (practice). We’re just playing catch all the time, acting like we are receivers or something like, we always want to be small. Big guys always want to be small, small guys always want to be big. So, we’re just doing those types of things. Literally, like catching it with one hand all the time. It stuck. It just stuck to me. That’s all I can say.”

The Falcons have been pleased with Davidson’s development.

“Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game and set him back a little bit,” defensive line coach Gary Emanuel said. “But he’s bouncing back from that. He’s working hard and improving on the things he needs to work on, which is all parts of the game like all the rest of the guys. He’s been doing a great job. We’re really happy with where Marlon is headed.”

The Falcons gave up a season-high 203 yards rushing in the 19-13 loss to the Panthers on Oct. 31. Davidson believes he’ll be needed to help stop the run against quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers.

“That’s a big-time player that we are playing against in Cam Newton,” Davidson said. “Coming from Auburn (where Davidson played, too), running quarterback. Everybody hates a running quarterback. Just playing against Carolina again, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a work week.”

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

Buccaneers 30, Falcons 17

Final Five games

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26

Falcons at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2

New Orleans Saints at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9

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