Defense at heart of early success for Bulldogs, Falcons

September 25, 2012 

It’s easy for a fan of an undefeated football team to be out of control with excitement. It’s normal to wonder how long the perfection will last and how much fun you’ll have watching it.

Take the Georgia Bulldogs, for example. They are 4-0. They’re scoring 47.5 points per game. They look like they’ve got the best defensive player in college football. They’ve got a nationally televised game this week against a huge division rival before facing the other great team in the SEC East on the road next week.

Then take the Atlanta Falcons. They are 3-0. They just beat a team out west on a short week. They held San Diego to three points, which is pretty impressive considering the Chargers had scored 60 in the first two weeks of the season. They are scoring 31 points a game and doing it with ease.

Oh, and Atlanta’s biggest rival, the New Orleans Saints, is 0-3. Sure, that matters in a rivalry. If you’re undefeated and your most hated opponent is winless, life is good.

Will these teams stay undefeated? Probably not, but don’t blame fans if they enjoy this for a while.

Georgia is doing what it was supposed to do -- winning games in an easy schedule. Sure, the defense looks great, regardless of the opponent. And the offense has been incredible so far. But let’s come back down to Earth and remember the four teams the Bulldogs have defeated have a combined record of 5-10.

The statement Georgia made against Vanderbilt makes everyone wonder how the Bulldogs would do this week if they were playing Alabama instead of Tennessee. It might be premature to think the Bulldogs would have an easy time with the Crimson Tide, but there is enough to believe Georgia could at least be competitive with the best team in the country.

Georgia was competitive with LSU last year in the SEC championship game -- for a half. Then LSU showed its dominance and proved that Georgia was not there yet. But if the Bulldogs win this week over the Volunteers and next week at South Carolina, they may well show they have closed the gap.

Aaron Murray seemed to have a revelation at halftime of the Missouri game. He was awful in that first half, but ever since Murray has been unstoppable. Sure, he needs to do it against a better defense, and he’ll have that chance next week against the Gamecocks. But Murray is obviously gaining confidence with every solid performance.

Georgia’s freshmen running backs -- Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall -- are scary good. Again, let’s see what they do against Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor -- South Carolina’s two monster defensive ends -- next week. But you have to be impressed with these two so far.

The Falcons have their own success with offensive skill players, as quarterback Matt Ryan and his receivers are becoming a story in the NFL. Ryan no longer looks like a young player trying to find his way, but instead a veteran quarterback trying to take his team to the next level.

But both of these teams, even with all the offense, are winning with defense. Georgia will have a tougher test Saturday against Tennessee’s great receivers. But the Bulldogs will get Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo back, and once those two join Jarvis Jones, Georgia’s defense could rival the group in Tuscaloosa.

And to see what Mike Nolan, the new Atlanta defensive coordinator, has done with the Falcons’ defense is incredible. We probably haven’t seen a secondary this good in Atlanta since the years when Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan were creating trouble for the opposition in the early 1990s.

Dunta Robinson is finally showing why the Falcons signed him a few years ago, and Asante Samuel looks solid. But these hard-hitting safeties named William Moore and Thomas DeCoud are bringing back memories of Scott Case and Tom Pridemore. They are doing this with their supposed best defensive back, Brent Grimes, out for the season.

Winning is always fun, but there’s something about winning with defense. Both the Bulldogs and the Falcons are doing that right now, and if it continues the euphoria of winning might linger a bit longer than usual for these two fan bases.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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