Falcons’ defense slowly improving on third downs, Smith says

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Arthur Smith said his team’s defense is slowly improving on third down, after the unit stopped Washington on 7 of 12 attempts in Sunday’s 19-13 defeat.

The Falcons stopped the Commanders on four consecutive third downs across three possessions in the fourth quarter to give themselves a chance to rally.

However, the team remains third worst in the league in opponents’ success on third downs (47.2%). Tennessee is the league’s best (30.7). It has held two of its past three opponents, and three of five, to less than 50%.

“If you’re going to get beat on the same things, you end up changing,” Smith said. “We’ve tried to adapt. There are guys grinding, and we are trying to find different ways to affect the quarterback.”

Smith said the return of cornerback A.J. Terrell, in his second game back from injury, helped the defense, particularly on third down. Terrell finished with one tackle and one pass defensed.

“I know my presence means a lot for the defense and just being out there and being able to compete,” said Terrell, a former Clemson standout.