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Ricardo Allen remembers when the Falcons’ defense ranked among the worst in the NFL.

That’s not difficult. It was only one year ago when the Falcons ranked near the bottom of the league in total defense and dead last in red-zone stops.

Those memories made Allen smile on Wednesday Authentic Quenton Nelson Jersey , because defense has become a point of pride for the Falcons, who play at the Los Angeles Rams in a wild-card game on Saturday.

For the first time since Atlanta’s first Super Bowl season in 1998, the Falcons (10-6) finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense (19.7) and total defense.

Allen was especially proud to note the Falcons have climbed to No. 5 in the league in red-zone defense.

Unlike 2016, when the Falcons leaned heavily on the NFL’s top-scoring offense for their Super Bowl run, Atlanta takes better balance into the postseason.

”Going from being one of the bottom defenses in the league last year … it’s big growth,” Allen said, adding the improvement has come ”much faster than I thought it would be.”

The Falcons have emphasized defense in recent drafts, and that commitment has produced results. Defensive starters added in the last three drafts include linebackers Vic Beasley Jr., Deion Jones and DeVondre Campbell and safety Keanu Neal.

Six defensive starters on last year’s defense were first- and second-year players.

Coach Dan Quinn said he has seen second-year players Jones, Campbell and Neal ”take a big step from year one to year two just as you hoped it would happen.”

Jones, Neal and Campbell are Atlanta’s top three leaders in tackles.

Quinn said he sees better communication on the field through ”hand signals, just sometimes an eye contact.”

Allen says there’s room for more improvement.

”Oh man, if we keep growing and we stay humble and we keep enjoying the process, the sky is the limit,” he said. ”I think we can be one of the best defenses in the league for sure.”

Quinn, the former Seattle defensive coordinator, enjoys seeing the young starters play lead roles. He also sees more improvement to come.

”I think this group can take another jump,” Quinn said. ”They’re athletic, they’re tackling well, the communication piece is there, so I’m very hopeful for where that group can go.”

The defensive upswing has been important, because the Atlanta offense that led the league in scoring in 2016 has struggled at times this season . The Falcons’ scoring has dropped from 33.8 to 22.1 points per game.

Atlanta has been held under 30 points in five straight games Authentic Darius Leonard Jersey , including last week’s 22-10 win over Carolina to clinch a playoff spot.

NOTES: Special teams coach Keith Armstrong will interview with the Cardinals next week as a candidate to replace coach Bruce Arians. ”To me it’s a sign of respect,” Armstrong said after Wednesday’s practice. ”I’ve been doing this 24 years now. That’s quite a long time in this league. It’s good to have someone recognize you for what you’ve done.” … Return specialist Andre Roberts (knee, ankle) did not practice. A long list of players were limited, including RB Devonta Freeman (knee), WR Julio Jones (ankle, ribs), DE Adrian Clayborn (calf), WR Taylor Gabriel (hamstring), C Alex Mack (calf) and TE Levine Toilolo (knee).

NEW YORK — When the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox get together for their next series, both teams could feature somewhat different rosters.

After Sunday’s finale of the three-game series at Yankee Stadium, the longtime rivals will not meet again until Aug. 2 at Fenway Park — two days after the non-waiver trade deadline.

Both teams will play 25 games before the next installment of the rivalry.

The teams head into the ninth meeting with four wins apiece after Chris Sale fanned 11 in seven one-hit innings in an 11-0 rout Saturday. Rafael Devers hit a grand slam among a career-high five hits while J.D. Martinez drove in three runs as the Red Sox rebounded from opening the series with an 8-1 loss Friday.

Devers has 14 RBIs in his last 12 games while Martinez is hitting .432 with 12 of his major league-leading 67 RBIs in his last nine games.

The Yankees will be looking to rebound from getting shut out for the fourth time this season and third time since June 23.

Off the field, trade talks were a popular topic as both Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski addressed it.

The Yankees are in the market for a starting pitcher to bolster the back end of their rotation anchored by Sunday’s starting pitcher Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10 ERA).

With the crosstown New York Mets falling to one of the worst records in the National League, talk of a possible deal for Jacob deGrom is circulating, though Toronto’s J.A. Happ or Texas Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels could be more realistic.

“If the best business decisions happened to be with a rival, that’s not a problem for me,” said Cashman on Friday, while noting he has been in touch with Omar Minaya, one of three men holding the Mets GM role in Sandy Alderson’s leave of absence. “As far as I’m concerned it match just makes sense, I don’t care who (it’s) with.

As for the Red Sox, they already filled a need by adding a right-handed hitting first baseman in Steve Pearce. Pearce was obtained Thursday night from the Toronto Blue Jays but Dombrowski said Saturday the deal could have been completed earlier and any changes would not be overly significant.

“People are calling, and you just kind of check in and make sure they know what’s taking place and vice versa Authentic Braden Smith Jersey ,” Dombrowski said Saturday afternoon. “The one thing with us is, we’re going to try to be the best club we can, regardless of what the Yankees do. And we all know that they have a really good team.”

Neither team is motivated to get something done now and both executives will watch Severino face David Price (9-5, 3.66) in a matchup of pitchers who are rolling of late.

Severino can become the first 13-game winner in the majors after he allowed six hits in seven scoreless innings Tuesday in Philadelphia.

“There’s no question that he’s our ace, and we know that when he gets the ball, he has a chance to dominate and we have a good chance to get it done that day,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday.

Severino also is 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA in nine home starts this season. He also is 10-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his last 13 regular season home starts, the longest streak at home since David Cone went 16 starts without a home loss from Aug. 17, 1997, to Aug. 27, 1998.

Severino’s home unbeaten streak matches Seattle’s Wade LeBlanc for the longest active streak in the majors.

The right-hander has turned in 14 straight starts without allowing more than three runs. It is the longest active streak in the majors and the longest by a Yankee starting pitcher since Rudy May from Aug. 2, 1980-April 20, 1981.

Besides racking up wins, Severino also is maintaining velocity, especially late in outings. His 98th pitch Tuesday was tracked at 100.1 mph, was among 12 at least 100 mph and his 44 pitches tracked at 100 leads all starting pitchers.

Severino’s last home loss was to the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 3. He is 2-5 with a 4.61 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) against Boston.

Price is 7-1 with a 2.72 ERA in his last nine starts and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each outing. He last pitched Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels and recorded his ninth win by allowing one run and five hits in six innings.

Things are going so well that he ended his press conference following his last outing by making fun of his carpal tunnel syndrome that some speculated was due to playing the video game Fortnite and kept him out of a game in New York in May.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to go, so I don’t think so,” Price said before adding “Yeah, Fortnite.”

Price is attempting to reach double-digits in wins before the All-Star break for the first time since 2012 with Tampa Bay and third time overall.

The left-hander is 15-12 with a 4.67 ERA in 39 appearances (38 starts) against the Yankees. At the current Yankee Stadium, he is 8-6 with a 4.27 ERA in 19 starts.

Since joining the Red Sox in 2016, he is 2-4 with a 7.42 ERA in eight starts against the Yankees.

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