Kyle Shanahan vs. Gary Kubiak: Two Coaches Coming Full Circle

Kyle Shanahan returns to Denver to take on one of his old mentors in Gary Kubiak. Who wins out? The Pupil or the Master?

The Atlanta Falcons are coming to town and they bring with them a familiar face. Kyle Shanahan, son of former Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, comes to the Mile High City as the head of a run-and-gun Atlanta offense that so far this season, has put the rest of the league on notice.

With quarterback Matt Ryan, wideout Julio Jones and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Falcons have been impressive the past two weeks, beating New Orleans and Carolina.

Putting up over 90 combined points over the last two games, while seeing Ryan throw for over 500 yards and Jones catch for 300 yards against Carolina, the core of the Atlanta offense is putting up video game-type numbers. Freeman and Coleman have been steady in the run game as well as they combined for 190 yards and three scores in the win against the Saints.

All this can be attributed to the direction of Shanahan, who has melded his own offensive philosophy to the talents he has at his disposal now in Atlanta. 

Coach Gary Kubiak took time to address the Atlanta offense yesterday, talking about the growth of Shanahan during his time as an offensive coordinator in the league.

“I think Kyle has been doing his thing for a few years. He’s really grown," Kubiak said. "When Kyle and I were together we were a big two-back team. He’s branched out all over the place. He’s playing with a lot of tight ends. They have some really good tight ends, a lot of three and four wide. I watch him grow each and every year. I study him a lot obviously. I really enjoy watching what they do. To me, he has a new identity every year and in this league you have to be growing all the time.” Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be at the helm of leading his Denver defense in trying to slow down Atlanta this week. He offered his opinions on what he has seen out of the Falcons offense so far this year. 

“They’re a prolific offense," Phillips said. "I don’t think we’ve seen this good of an offense in a while in the league. What they’ve done so far—they can throw the ball tremendously well obviously, their offensive line is really good, they’ve got a great receiver and then their other receivers are really good, their tight end is good, their running backs catch the ball out of the backfield and then they have a terrific running game. I don’t think you can say any more about how great they are on offense and the quarterback is playing superb. It’s a big, big challenge. We’ve played a lot of good offenses but this might be the best one we’ve played.”

Phillips would also offer insight on the complexity of the Atlanta offensive game plan and how Shanahan’s schemes mirror what Coach Kubiak has tried to do in his time in Denver.

“Teams and coaches do what their players do well. Right now, they talk about us on defense, but I think of them on offense," Phillips said. "They’ve got a whole gamut of things that they can do because they can do so many of them well. He’s done a lot of bootleg stuff which they haven’t done in the past. The quarterback’s really taking to that well so they’ve done a lot of bootlegs. Obviously, it’s similar to our offense.”

Demaryius Thomas scoffed at the notion that Denver will feel pressure to keep up with Matt Ryan and friends.

“For what? We’re going to play Bronco football," Thomas said. "We’re going to do what we’ve always been doing. We’re going to go out and try to put points up as an offense, they’re going to go out and try to stop [us]. Just because a team puts up a lot more points doesn’t mean they’re going to score that many on our defense. We’re going to do what we’ve got to do as a team just to get this win.” 

These are the types of matchups that produce great conversations about who can get the best of who when a great defense faces a prolific offense.

After seeing Denver take care of business against the likes of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston, it stands to reason that if that if they are able to pull out a win against the Falcons it would only add to their resume as one of the best defenses in the league.  

Potent offenses have crossed Denver’s path as of late, only to be muted and defeated by the No Fly Zone and Broncos fans are hoping this game will be no different. 

Note: Tevin Coleman may miss the Denver game due to a Sickle-Cell condition.

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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