There will be likely be plenty of suspicion about the Falcons, primarily because they parlayed a 5-0 start into an 8-8 record last year.
And yes, they were playing against a rookie quarterback in his first NFL start.
That shouldn’t, however, take away from what ought to be a statement win for the Falcons, as they cruised to a 23-16 win over the Broncos on the road Sunday.
Broncos first-rounder Paxton Lynch was very inoffensive, finishing his first start (in place of an injured Trevor Siemian) with just 223 yards and a touchdown and an interception.
But the Falcons (4-1) had plenty to do with that, pressuring him throughout the day the way the Broncos usually do to others. In particular, Falcons pass-rusher Vic Beasley had 3.5 sacks (nearly matching his career total of 5.0 entering the game).
That was plenty, on a day when the Falcons continued to show a diverse offense, one that isn’t just reliant on Julio Jones going for 300 yards. In fact, the star wideout only had two catches for 29, but quarterback Matt Ryan spread the ball to seven different receivers.
Primarily, they went to work against the underbelly of the Broncos (4-1) defense, using their running backs to work the middle of the field.
Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman combined for 119 rushing yards (on 29 attempts) but had a startling 167 receiving yards, with Coleman posting 132 of those on just four catches. It was the Broncos defense which seemed most startled, unable to slow down the Falcons the way they have most teams the last year and a half.
And after throttling Carolina last week, the Falcons have now beaten both of last year’s Super Bowl teams, in a fairly efficient manner. Whether they can sustain it remains to be seen. After all, finishing last season by winning three of their last 11 has left a stain, which they can only clean up week by week.