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'Forget the plays': How the Falcons found their long-lost pass rush

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What is Brian Hill's fantasy value if Freeman misses time? (1:41)

Matthew Berry expects the Falcons to use Brian Hill as a three-down back should Devonta Freeman miss time and suggests that fantasy managers pick him up. (1:41)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons safety Ricardo Allen was in the middle of dissecting plays on the sideline on Sunday when someone encouraged him to change his in-game routine.

Allen, a team captain, often searches for an edge, which is why he typically seeks out the tablet to break down video of the ongoing action. This time, assistant coach Raheem Morris intervened.

"He told me forget the plays and just come and let your instincts and technique come out and go play,” Allen said of the second-quarter pep talk from Morris. "He was like, "Don't worry about [the plays]. We've got this.'

"Me, I'm always on the sideline trying to look at the plays and what the offense is doing to us. He was one of the first coaches to ever come take the pad away from [me] and tell me just to play.”

That relax-and-play message seemed to resonate throughout the Falcons' defense during an improbable 26-9 victory over the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. The Falcons, who had seven sacks heading into the game, sacked Drew Brees six times and didn't allow a touchdown.

Maybe it stemmed from coach Dan Quinn's moving Morris from wide receivers coach to working with the secondary on communication and technique. Maybe it was the defensive playcalling, with Quinn delegating more to linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich and Morris.

Or maybe it was every defender being on top of his assignment and working in unison like never before this season.

"I know outside, a lot has been discussed on playcalling, but I think you guys have been on it for a few weeks and know there's been adjustments made over the last few weeks, and it's not so uncommon that a team has [playcalling] collaboration,” Quinn said Monday. "We're just fortunate that we're able to have some guys that can do that.

"I don't want to get glossed over into [a playcalling discussion]. This was the players, and they made some excellent communication and had a terrific performance. I don't think anything should ever distract away from that.”

Now it's about sustaining that defensive momentum going into this week's matchup at Carolina and carrying the same energy into upcoming home games against Tampa Bay and New Orleans. The Falcons remain at the bottom of the NFC South standings at 2-7, but they have an opportunity to make a stunning climb if they continue to play like they did in New Orleans.

Quinn, who first developed his reputation as a defensive-line specialist, was pleased to see the Falcons bring consistent pressure for the first time all season, led by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett's 2.5 sacks. Even Vic Beasley Jr., who was put on the trade block before the deadline, had success as a pass-rusher against the Saints (1.5 sacks).

It won't be easy to replicate. Carolina ranks 25th in the league in sacks surrendered per pass attempt. Tampa Bay ranks 27th.

"I was really pleased with how the guys worked in concert together,” Quinn said. "We showed examples of different ones today of when coverage was so strong, it allowed the rush to get there. And we showed some other examples where our stunt happened to work really well. To me, it was just a good example to show what we're capable of. ... If we apply those things time after time, those are the results that we hope to get.”