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Falcons Week 5 Recap: Broncos Tamed At Mile High

Atlanta Falcons week 2 preview Paul Sheppard via Flickr


The Atlanta Falcons dethroned the reining World Champion Denver Broncos on the backs of their ambitious defense.


Following a demolition of the Carolina Panthers in the Georgia Dome in week 4, the Atlanta Falcons traveled to Denver to face the World Champion Broncos on Sunday knowing that, with the Saints on a bye and the Panthers and Bucs facing off on Monday night, they could go 3 games ahead of their rivals in the NFC South with a victory.

With the Broncos possessing one of the best defenses in the league, there was a lot of pressure on Matt Ryan to play smart and exploit any vulnerabilities that he could find. The result was a mistake-free game from Matt Ryan, who gave Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman the opportunities to get into space against the Broncos’ linebackers, with Coleman showing game-breaking speed and a much improved receiving ability as he racked up 132 yards on and a touchdown on just 4 catches.

The biggest surprise, though, was the Falcons’ defense. Rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch was harassed all day as the defense put up its best performance of the season by far, holding the Broncos’ offense to only 16 points in a 23-16 victory.


For the second time this season, the Falcons were able to win without relying on Julio Jones. The All-Pro wide receiver was held to 29 yards on 2 catches, although an offensive pass interference call and two overthrown deep passes left him tantalizingly close to adding to that tally.

Outside of Jones, 6 other players caught passes with the aforementioned Coleman doing by far the most damage. One of the biggest strengths of the offense this season is the variety of ways that they can beat teams. It seemed last year as if the offense lived or died based on Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. This year, the Falcons are getting production from role players and roster depth.

While Coleman did most of the damage through the air, it was Devonta Freeman who was the primary runner. 88 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries might look rather pedestrian, but Freeman ran tough, not allowing the Broncos to have the 3rd and long situations which Von Miller and company feast upon. Both running backs are incredibly valuable to Kyle Shanahan and his offense and appear happy to share the load, forming the most deadly duo in the league.

The offensive line has grown in strength as the year has progressed, dominating in the run game and allowing Matt Ryan time to progress through his reads in the passing game. Alex Mack was one of the best signings of free agency and improves the whole unit, particularly Chris Chester and Andy Levitre at the guard spots. Jake Matthews didn’t allow a quarterback sack, hit or even hurry on Sunday per Pro Football Focus, while they also rated Ryan Schraeder as the best right tackle in the league last season.


If you’re looking for a story, here it is. Having only registered 4 sacks in the first 4 games, the Falcons sacked first round pick Paxton Lynch 6 times. Vic Beasley accounted for 3.5 of those, a stat made all the more surprising by the fact that his tally for the entire 2015 season was 4. Evergreen 36 year old Dwight Freeney is PFF’s top 4-3 defensive end in terms of pass rushing productivity and registered his 3rd sack of the season, justifying the Falcons’ decision to bring him in.

Paxton Lynch was made to look incredibly vulnerable as Michael Schofield and Ty Sambrailo were beaten continually. He was unable to get comfortable all day and showed his naivety by holding on to the ball too long on a couple of occasions, with Grady Jarrett being the main beneficiary with a late sack.

CJ Anderson, Devontae Booker and Andy Janovich were held to 66 yards on 18 carries, meaning that Lynch was forced to throw the ball more often than Gary Kubiak would have liked. The Falcons’ misfit group of linebackers, which included AJ Hawk, who was a free agent a week ago, and Kemal Ishmael, who is the backup strong safety, played very well with Ishmael doing enough to warrant consideration and playing time even when the team is healthy.

The secondary looked good. Desmond Trufant refuses to give away big plays, while 1st round pick Keanu Neal fits perfectly in Dan Quinn’s defense, hitting hard and aggressively going after whoever or whatever enters the middle of the field. Robert Alford plays well but continues to give up stupid and unnecessary penalties, while Ricardo Allen looked much improved and snagged a huge interception, giving the Falcons excellent field position at a crucial time.


The Falcons have now beaten the Super Bowl runner up and winner in the last two weeks, proving that they are a team that needs to be taken seriously. The way that they manhandled the Broncos’ offensive line should be a huge confidence boost and being able to score points on one of the best defenses in the league was impressive. They sit atop the NFC South at 4-1 with the Bucs at 2-3, the Saints at 1-3 and the Panthers at 1-4.