Just about half an hour before Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orlean Saints 1 p.m. kickoff on Sunday, Dec. 18, Falcons’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees was carted off of the field, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein reported.
Pees had collided with a Saints player during warmups, per Rothstein, who added that Pees was lying on the field for “several minutes” before they carted him off.
Justin Felder of Fox 5 Atlanta posted a video of Pees leaving the field with the medical team before anyone confirmed it was actually him.
The Athletic’s Josh Kendall, who was on the field, added that it Pees was “run into by a kick returner.”
The Falcons soon released an official statement, per the team’s official website, confirming that Pees was taken off of the field and headed to the hospital to be checked on further:
“Atlanta Falcons Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees was involved in an on-field pregame collision.
He was stable, alert and responsive and has been transported to University Medical Center New Orleans for medical testing.
Frank Bush will serve as interim defensive play caller for today’s game.”
The Falcons losing Pees right now is horrible timing with the team still on the hunt for a playoff re-birth.
Bush Joined the Falcons in January 2021
Frank Bush, an Athens, Georgia native, joined the Falcons back in January of 2021 when head coach Arthur Smith was officially hired and Dean Pees was dragged out of retirement.
Prior to coming to Atlanta, Bush was an assistant head coach and inside linebackers coach under New York Jets head coach Adam Gase. However, he was promoted to interim defensive coordinator following the firing of New York’s DC, Gregg Williams.
When Bush took over on defensive, the Jets were able to pull off two victories in the team’s final four games.
In Atlanta, Bush replaced linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, who funny enough ended up heading to NY after landing the Jets’ defensive coordinator job.
Bush has a total of 31 years of coaching under his belt and played in the NFL himself as a fifth-round pick out of North Carolina State by the then-Houston Oilers.
He and Smith have known each other for quite some time as the two were on staff together with the Tennesee Titans from 2011 to 2012.
Desmond Ridder Gets His 1st Start vs. Saints
This is a critical game for two reasons and Bush will play a major factor in it.
But all eyes will be on rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, who is getting his first start with Marcus Mariota benched and has this game and three more to prove himself.
The other reason is that the Falcons are not eliminated from the playoff hunt just yet.
However, they will need to finish strong, which means they need to beat the Saints and then go on to win their next three matchups against the Baltimore Raves, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Falcons have not seen a post-season since 2016 when they made a Super Bowl appearance.
It’s a lot to ask from a rookie quarterback to win back-to-back but anything can happen in this league.