The Atlanta Falcons were resounding underdogs to the Denver Broncos this week, and even on this notoriously optimistic website, there were plenty of doubters.
It turns out we were all wrong, we doubting types, and I couldn’t be happier to eat my crow. The Falcons simply dominated Denver, and they’ve arrived on the scene as contenders. I may pick against them again, but I’ll do so reluctantly, because they’re clearly good enough to win any game on the schedule if they stay healthy and stay the course.
Here’s your quarter by quarter breakdown of the game.
The Falcons got rolling on the very first drive, keyed by a 48 yard reception by Tevin Coleman and a great touchdown plunge from Devonta Freeman. Atlanta did a phenomenal job of getting guys open, finding holes in the defense, and ultimately winding up with the score on a fourth down play.
Atlanta’s first defensive drive went extremely well, too. Denver got one first down, but the Falcons clamped down on the second series, Lynch sailed a couple of throws, and Atlanta immediately got the ball back.
The second time around on offense, the Falcons didn’t fare quite as well. There was an impressive 15 yard run by Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman picked up a couple of nice gains, and the Falcons looked like they had a crucial third down...but Julio Jones got called for offensive pass interference. Freeman came up with a nice catch over the middle to put Matt Bryant in position for a 46 yard field goal, which he hit with ease. That put the Falcons up 10-0.
Vic Beasley sacked Paxton Lynch on the first play of the next drive, and thanks to some sharp defense and a timely illegal hands to the face call on the Broncos, they once again got the Broncos to punt.
Unfortunately, Atlanta couldn’t do much with the ball, with a first down penalty, big sack, and missed Matt Ryan-to-Tevin Coleman pass on third down. That gave the ball back to Denver, and the Broncos wasted no time getting moving against Atlanta’s defense. Then the first quarter was over.
Atlanta got Denver to fourth down, but unfortunately they got the first down on a fullback plunge. That was followed by some nice pressure by Brooks Reed, a penalty on Robert Alford, and then some bad throws by Paxton Lynch to stall out the drive. The Broncos did hit the field goal to close the gap.
The next drive got ugly offensively for Atlanta. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan missed twice—okay, Ryan missed Jones a little bit both times by overthrowing—and nearly threw a sideline pick, and the Falcons had to punt.
The defense started off the next drive with two penalties on one play, but quickly got the stop, thanks to a big third down tackle by Dwight Freeney.
The Falcons used the ground game effectively on the next drive, moving down the field before hitting 4th and short. They got Matt Ryan across for a first down, and an Austin Hooper catch got them in field goal range, and ultimately, Matt Bryant drilled the field goal to put them up 13-3 with less than two minutes in the half.
Defensively, Atlanta looked fantastic on the final drive of the first half, with Vic Beasley nabbing his second sack of the game. The Falcons went into the half with a 10 point lead, which I did not expect.
A quick three and out forced by the Falcons, and they had the ball. It was another rough drive for Atlanta, which was capped off by a third down sack of Matt Ryan.
Fortunately, the Falcons got the Broncos backed up to the goal line thanks to a great Matt Bosher punt and penalty on Denver, and Paxton Lynch heaved a pick to Ricardo Allen. The Falcons moved down the field pretty swiftly and scored on a Tevin Coleman touchdown, going up 20-3.
The next drive, Denver managed to muster up some yardage, but the Falcons still ultimately got the stop and forced another punt. That drive featured the third sack of the game for Vic Beasley, if you can believe that.
The offense got the ball back and was driving before they got backed up, with a 3rd and long pass to Mohamed Sanu winding up on the ground and back in Denver’s hands.
Denver got moving in a hurry, but yet another Vic Beasley half sack and a game Falcons defense forced them to settle for a field goal, and the game was 20-6.
The next drive saw a huge downfield strike to Tevin Coleman and some effective running, and the Falcons got very close before a borderline catch by Mohamed Sanu was overturned on review. The Falcons went up 23-6 on the Matt Bryant field goal, though.
I was too busy celebrating to do drive-by-drive the rest of the way. Atlanta wound up allowing a late touchdown, but got the ball on an onside kick and ran the clock down to the two minute warning before trying to convert and failing.
Denver had one more drive to try t make magic happen, and they managed to hit on a Brandon McManus field goal thanks to a late Robert Alford penalty. The onside kick wound up in Levine Toilolo’s hands, and it was over. Great win for Atlanta!