The Falcons had something to prove on Monday night when the whole world was watching. They wanted to show everyone that they are a legit team and have put last year’s playoff woes behind them.
Coming off and impressive win against Kansas City last Sunday, the Falcons were able to do the same thing on Monday night when they defeated the Denver Broncos 27-21 in front of 70,427 fans at the Georgia Dome.
“I’m really proud of the performance that we turned in tonight, especially on the defensive side of the ball” said Falcons head coach Mike Smith. “The four turnovers were huge.”
Smith was right about the turnovers being huge. In fact, the Broncos first three possessions in the first quarter were stalled because of three consecutive interceptions by Peyton Manning. William Moore came up with the first pick, Thomas DeCoud got the second and Robert McClain had the third pick.
Those three interceptions led to 10 points. Michael Turner scored on a 1-yard run after the first interception and Matt Bryant kicked a 37-yard field goal after the second pick.
“We came up with a great game plan,” said Moore who finished game with eight tackles and one sack to go along with his interception. “[Mike] Nolan did an excellent job of game planning this week.”
The Falcons added more insurance early in the second quarter with a Bryant 42-yard field goal. But the Falcons increased their lead to 20 late in the fourth quarter when the offense produced a 7-play, 73-yard drive which ended with a Matt Ryan 1-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez.
“Matt got us into to really good plays based on the looks they were giving us,” said Smith who was taking about Ryan going up against Denver’s defense.
Manning and company did get on the board towards the end of the first half as he threw an 18-yard score to Demaryius Thomas.
But the Falcons increased their lead back to 20 midway through the third when Ryan threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White.
“I think we did a good job of sticking to the game plan and executing,” said White. “We stuck to the script, we knew it was going to be tough because they have a good defense.”
The Broncos defense was able to hold the Falcons offense just enough so that Manning could make a min-run. They were able to do that in the fourth quarter as they scored 14 unanswered points in eight minutes. Willis McGahee scored both touchdowns for the Broncos and ended his day with 113 yards on 22 carries.
When the Falcons got the ball back with 3:25 left in the game, they needed two big plays in order to burn out the clock. They got both those plays from two players that were relatively quiet all game long. The first came from Julio Jones who caught a 6-yard Ryan pass on a third-and-five play. The other came from Turner who got a 15-yard run on a second-and-eight play.
Jones only had four receptions for 14 yards and Turner rushed for 42 yards on 17 carries.
“It was a big play,” said Smith talking about Jones’ play. “Julio did a great job stretching the ball out to get it to the 30-yard line. It’s a play that he has confidence in running.”
What it came down to is the Falcons played well on offense, defense and special teams. Ryan finished with a QB rating of 101 and White had 102 receiving yards to go along with his one touchdown. The defense frustrated Manning all game long which led to him having a QB rating of 58. And Bryant was his automatic self as he made both of his field goal attempts.
But offense for the Falcons has been on point these last two games. They have averaged over 30 points per game and have not turned the ball over once. The reason for the early success is the weapons Ryan has on the outside.
“This is what we always envisioned for our offense,” said Gonzalez. “You’ve got four of us: Roddy White, Harry Douglas, Julio Jones and myself. Whoever they want to double-cover the next man has to step up.”
Those four players along with the rest of the Falcons will look to continue their hot streak when they travel to San Diego on Sunday to face the Chargers who are also 2-0.