In week five, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Denver Broncos 23-16 in Denver, and a big part of that win was the offense’s ability to exploit matchups and get points when they presented themselves.
Matt Ryan played a clean game despite Denver’s pass rush getting his jersey dirty a time or two. The Falcons defense also had a large role to play in the win. Our friends as Pro Football Focus backup the Falcons defensive performance, as the top three players for Atlanta were on the defensive side.
In light of that, we’ll change it up this week and look at the defensive ratings first.
- Keanu Neal, 87.5: For the third week in a row, a rookie led the Falcons on defense. Neal did a great job in coverage despite ever-changing assignments, but he truly excelled in making tackles near the line of scrimmage and limiting yards-after-catch. It’s great to see him getting more and more comfortable each week.
- Kemal Ishmael, 84.4: A lot of people wanted to see how Ishmael would do if the Falcons moved him closer to the line of scrimmage and played him at a linebacker spot, and he really performed well considering it was a somewhat new experience for him. I will say that Denver isn’t really the team that will test his ability in coverage or force him to cover the full width of the field, so it will be interesting to see how he does when he is asked to do so. Still, this was a great performance by Ishmael.
- Vic Beasley, 84.3: There are plenty of people who will minimize Beasley’s performance Sunday because he was playing against a hurt right tackle, but this is still the first time that Beasley looked like a legitimate pass-rusher. Beasley had four sacks and forced a couple of fumbles. He did an awesome job using his speed rush outside and then used that to set up inside moves. This was a great showing and now we all hope that he can build off of it this week against Seattle.
- Desmond Trufant, 81.9: Once again, Trufant is the steady anchor in the defensive backfield for Atlanta. Covering Demaryius Thomas is not an easy task and Trufant did a great job of that, for the most part. The score in the low 80s seems a little low to me, but it is still a great rating in a hostile environment against a great wideout—it helps that Paxton Lynch couldn’t complete a pass, for the most part, as well.
- Jake Matthews, 82.4 & Andy Levitre, 78.9: When playing the Denver Broncos, the offensive line the toughest job on the field, most of the time, and it is rare that a tackle plays as well as Matthews did Sunday. Andy Levitre also continues to be a surprise on the offensive line. The scores both seem pretty accurate, as there were a couple of collapses in pass protection and some missed blocks, but the overall performance by Matthews and Levitre was very good and a huge part of the Falcons win.
- Patrick DiMarco, 82.1: This really made me happy to see. I love fullbacks and I love watching them work, and DiMarco is the best fullback in the league by a wide margin, I think. He routinely cleared lanes for the Falcons running backs and did a great job picking the right guy to block. On top of all of that, DiMarco also caught a pass for a first down. He was as solid as I have seen him against a great Denver defense.
- Matt Ryan, 81.7: Even though he had a few hiccups early in the game when he overthrew some receivers and held the ball too long on a couple of sacks, Matt Ryan continued his hot streak against the Broncos. A couple of throws were a little too close for comfort but Ryan was in complete control of the offense. This guy is so fun to watch when he is playing like this. He went up against a great defense and played the way he needed to play to get the win.
This team looks good. The defense is hitting their stride and getting contributions from everyone on the field, and they should keep getting better when they get fully healthy and the younger players continue to mature. The offensive line didn’t play a perfect game but it was one of the best games I’ve seen against a Denver defense that tends to own the line of scrimmage. The schedule doesn’t let up this week but if the team continues to play like this, I don’t think it matters as much as we initially thought.