Rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch received a rude introduction to the NFL as the visiting Atlanta Falcons defeated the now formerly undefeated Denver Broncos 23-16. The Atlanta defense rose to the occasion as they sacked the Broncos’ top draft pick six times as they dominated the game. Yes, you read that correctly – six quarterback sacks. Coming into the game the maligned pass rush had only three sacks. Vic Beasley accounted for three and a half of those.
Coming into the game it was billed as the immovable force versus the unstoppable force. Denver’s defense was ranked top five in the league and the Falcons offense led the league in yardage averaging over 40 points a game their last three games. A lot wanted to see what was going to happen as the Falcons’ Matt Ryan was coming off a 503 yard passing day and receiver Julio Jones a 300 yard receiving game. The Falcons needed neither as a balanced attack took it to the Denver defense. Ryan passed for 267 yards and one score spreading the ball to seven receivers finding Julio Jones only twice for 29 yards. Tevin Coleman led the offense catching four Ryan passes including a 31 yard scoring pass to ice the game in the third quarter for 132 yards adding 31 on the ground. Devonta Freeman added 88 on the ground including the game’s first score to lead the ground game.
But the star of the game was the Atlanta defense that has been much maligned and deservedly so as they’ve needed to outscore everyone because of their inability to stop opposing offenses. Denver gave them help as they started the rookie quarterback whose debut was anything but spectacular.
Paxton looked like a middle-aged man attending his first dance lesson as he looked terribly uncomfortable in the pocket and seemed to trip over his own feet, moving awkwardly when pressure arrived. And for once for the Falcons it did as they sacked the rookie six times. Pretty impressive seeing they only had four coming into the game. “They just hit us in the mouth up front. Hats off to them, they outplayed us today… Not concerned about (quarterback) Paxton (Lynch)’s play at all,” said Bronco left tackle Russell Okung.
Paxton put up decent numbers in his debut completing 23 of 36 passes for 223 yards but it all came in garbage time in the final minutes of the game when the Falcons had the game well in hand leading 23-6. 110 of his passing yards came in during garbage time when they made the score respectable. That being said all his completions were relatively short with the exception of a 17-yard completion as he was unable to stretch the field. “I thought he did well,” Trevor Siemian said about this fill-in. Siemian, the Broncos first-string quarterback was forced to missed the game after getting injured last week. “Thought he did a lot of good things. Some things to build on and anytime you’re out there it’s a learning experience.”
The Falcon defense for the first time in years outshined the offense which was no slouch as they moved the ball well and kept Ryan upright most of the game. Despite their vaunted and much hyped defense the Broncos were only able to get to the Falcons QB twice and only managed one turnover, a fumble by Mohamed Sanu. They were able to slow down the Atlanta defense a little as the top offense gain about 100 yards less than their season average finishing with 372 yards.
By comparison the Atlanta defense shut down the Broncos with perhaps their most dominating outing and it came of the defending Super Bowl champions. The Falcons whose opponents were averaging over 31 points a game gave up half that amount. The seemly porous defense also only allowed the Broncos only 267 total yards and holding their running game to 44 yards. “As a team we didn’t play good enough,” said the Broncos’ coach Gary Kubiak.
People are starting to believe in the Falcons especially since their last two victories were against last year’s Super Bowl participants in which they won by a combined score of 7-49. “It was a great feeling. Our team came out and played together,” Beasley said.
The Falcons hope to keep that feeling going this week as they stay on the road this week. They are headed to Seattle to face the Seahawks Sunday. It will be a clash of division leaders with the Seahawks coming off a bye and while their defense remains dominant their offense is anything but as they’ve only scored 79 total points in four games. It will be Falcons’ coach first return to Seattle where he was the defensive coordinator before taking over the Falcons last year. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05pm and will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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