The Denver Broncos nine-game winning streak came to an end on Sunday, as they dropped one at home to the Atlanta Falcons, 23-16. The game was not as close as the score reflects, as 10 of Denver's points came with less than three minutes to play.
Watching the game, it didn't feel like the Broncos prepared well for this bout. They seemingly overlooked the Falcons, who came into Week 5 red-hot offensively, averaging an NFL-best 38 points per game.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... The Broncos defense kept Atlanta from sniffing their average, but they were far from dominant. As has been the trend thus far this season, Wade Phillips' unit started off slow, and for the third time this sesaon, relinquished a touchdown on their opponent's opening drive.
Atlanta's offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan crafted a game-plan tailored to exploit Denver's weaknesses on defense. The Broncos couldn't stop the run inside but the biggest killer was Atlanta's running backs in the passing game.
Quarterback Matt Ryan targeted his running backs out of the backfield 12 times, completing eight of them for a whopping 180 yards and a touchdown. Tevin Coleman led the way with four receptions for 132 yards and a score down the left seam.
Denver's inside linebackers — Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis — were completely out-matched and seemed unprepared to account for one of the key facets of Atlanta's offense. About the only thing Denver can say they did well on offense was taking away Julio Jones.
Jones was targeted six times, but only hauled in two receptions for 29 yards. Ryan spread the ball around and wisely did not try to force it to his most dangerous weapon.
Denver's defense was also decimated by sloppy tackling, an uncharacteristic slip. Atlanta would finish the day with 122 yards on the ground.
With an injured Trevor Siemian inactive for Week 5, Paxton Lynch started his first game and promptly laid an egg. However, with how poorly Denver's offensive line performed against Atlanta, I have a hard time believing Siemain would have fared much better.
Lynch's biggest problem was holding onto the ball too long. He picked the wrong game to be indecisive, as Atlanta was able to put consistent pressure on him with just a four-man rush.
Lynch finished the game 23-of-35 for 223 yards, one touchdown and one crucial interception. He was unsettled and rattled throughout the contest. It was definitely a performance the rookie will have plenty to learn from in the film room.
Those hoping Denver's running game would turn the ship around at home against Atlanta's malleable defense were left disappointed. They finished with just 84 yards rushing and 18 of them came from Lynch.
With Donald Stephenson missing his third consecutive start (calf), Ty Sambrailo once again got the nod at right tackle. Sambrailo has been terrible since Stephenson went down but he took his dereliction to another level vs. Atlanta. He was pulled late in the game.
It was obvious early that Sambrailo was out-matched by Vic Beasley but Gary Kubiak stuck with his 2015 second round pick almost down to the bitter end — and bitter it was. Kubiak waited too long to make that adjustment and he paid the price for it.
Well-coached teams replete with veteran experience will find a way to exploit the opposition's weaknesses and Atlanta found a way to do that on Sunday. The Broncos were out-executed at almost every turn.
Now, the Broncos are faced with regrouping on a short week. They've got to find a way to play better at the point of attack on defense and turn the corner on the O-line. Otherwise, it won't matter which QB is under center.
Denver will travel for their first Divisional game of the season to take on the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night. The Broncos only have a few days to get Trevor Siemian healed up, because after today's performance, Paxton Lynch might need some time to lick his wounds.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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