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Falcons used running backs to put Broncos defense on heels

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 9:  Running back Tevin Coleman #26 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

Heading into Sunday’s game against the Falcons, the Broncos defense hadn’t allowed an opposing running back to gain 100 yards from scrimmage in 14 games.

In the 23-16 victory, Falcons running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman both passed that plateau. Coleman, who played despite concerns about how his sickle cell trait would fare in the high altitude, had 132 receiving yards and added 31 yards on six carries. Freeman ran 23 times for 88 yards and had three catches for 35 yards.

The backs were deployed in various spots around the field and consistently won their battles with Broncos linebackers Todd Davis and Brandon Marshall over the course of the afternoon. Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said it was reminiscent of the way the Patriots have attacked the Broncos in the past, although safety T.J. Ward said he didn’t think it was something every team can use to put the Broncos on their heels.

“Everybody doesn’t have the same personnel,” Ward said, via the team’s website. “You’ve got two good backs in Atlanta. Detroit has two good backs. Every team doesn’t have those types of backs. They’ve got good personnel, they matched up against us well, we didn’t play our best, and they won the game. We’ll be back next week.”

You can bet that other teams will be trying to use their personnel in similar ways in the coming weeks and the Broncos will need to make some adjustments to protect against what’s looked like their only defensive vulnerability over a long period of time.

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23 Responses to “Falcons used running backs to put Broncos defense on heels”
  1. djzero22 says: Oct 10, 2016 11:31 AM

    Theo Riddick read that line and said “We do?”

  2. pantherfan4life says: Oct 10, 2016 11:38 AM

    Hard for me to say, but, the Falcons did a good job of finding a small weakness in that Bronco D. They have two fast backs that can catch. Interesting to see if the Chargers have the personnel to do the same.

  3. patsfan4lifesbchamps says: Oct 10, 2016 11:40 AM

    Danny Travethan’s loss was bigger than Denver anticipated. Davis and Marshall are not nearly as good. Also the interior offensive line of Atlanta won against Denver’s interior defensive linemen. They haven’t find a replacement for Malik Jackson yet. This defense took a step back and the Patriots offense got better. The Patriots are the clear favorites for the AFC now.

  4. slickspielman says: Oct 10, 2016 11:48 AM

    Run the ball on that soft front 7, the secondary is legit but the front seven is suspect. Thank you Atlanta Falcons for the recipe.

  5. harrisonhits2 says: Oct 10, 2016 12:05 PM

    “This defense took a step back and the Patriots offense got better. The Patriots are the clear favorites for the AFC now.”

    I don’t think its that big a step back and its a long season.

    I’ll wait till the Pats secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs before I get too warm and fuzzy about Denver. If the Pats have to go play in Denver in the playoffs again all bets are off.

  6. antkowiak666 says: Oct 10, 2016 12:11 PM

    Atlanta is for real!

  7. maust1013 says: Oct 10, 2016 12:14 PM

    patsfan4lifesbchamps says:
    Oct 10, 2016 11:40 AM
    Danny Travethan’s loss was bigger than Denver anticipated. Davis and Marshall are not nearly as good. Also the interior offensive line of Atlanta won against Denver’s interior defensive linemen. They haven’t find a replacement for Malik Jackson yet. This defense took a step back and the Patriots offense got better. The Patriots are the clear favorites for the AFC now.
    =================

    Funny how the masquerading Jests fan talks NE up on a Broncos thread but trashes them on Pats threads. Real Pats fans know the champions are the champions and remain the team to beat until you actually beat them

  8. dmadras says: Oct 10, 2016 12:16 PM

    I don’t think anyone is calling Denver’s front seven “soft” – not by a long shot. I think if you read the article they are stating Atlanta and New England have used their backs in isolation in the pass game. He also said not many teams have the players to do so and even if you do, it’s still about execution! Maybe I’m reading the wrong article though and maybe you’re right – the best defensive team in the NFL has a soft front seven? Go watch college ball, seems more your speed!

  9. LyinRogerMustGo says: Oct 10, 2016 12:19 PM

    Translation: they got exposed.

  10. LyinRogerMustGo says: Oct 10, 2016 12:21 PM

    Falcons wrote the blueprint on beating that defense and now the rest of the league will follow. 9-7 at best.

    Congrats Raiders on the 2016 AFC West championship.

  11. meetadam says: Oct 10, 2016 12:27 PM

    Run to set up pass plays?? What’s this the 90’s??

  12. patsfan4lifesbchamps says: Oct 10, 2016 12:40 PM

    harrisonhits2 says:
    Oct 10, 2016 12:05 PM
    “This defense took a step back and the Patriots offense got better. The Patriots are the clear favorites for the AFC now.”

    I don’t think its that big a step back and its a long season.

    I’ll wait till the Pats secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs before I get too warm and fuzzy about Denver. If the Pats have to go play in Denver in the playoffs again all bets are off.

    ———–

    Fair point but facts about Denver’s defense aren’t likely to change as season goes along. They will still be competitive but I wouldn’t rank them higher than the Patriots.

  13. ckg0913 says: Oct 10, 2016 12:40 PM

    It was bound to happen sooner or later. The Broncos run D has been soft and it was only a matter of time before it cost us dearly.

    Defense isn’t nearly as good if it’s 2nd/3rd and short.

  14. screenpass says: Oct 10, 2016 12:51 PM

    (Jack Del Rio furiously writing in his notebook, huge smile on his face.)

  15. bonecrushinghits says: Oct 10, 2016 12:58 PM

    Time to go into Seattle and spank them too.

  16. todoubled says: Oct 10, 2016 1:00 PM

    Show me another backfield like the Falcons in this league besides maybe the Eagles, Pats, Steelers, Bengals or Jets that would have the personnel to do what the Falcons did. The only team in the AFC west that might be able to pull off that type of game is the Chiefs. That will be the only way the Broncos Defense gets beat this year. I was at the game and God the Falcons looked good.

  17. stealthjunk says: Oct 10, 2016 1:01 PM

    ATL used its WRs to clear out and then ran its RBs underneath. It worked briefly yesterday, but Denver made adjustments after the first quarter and only gave up 13 points in the next 3 quarters. Add in the fact that the Broncos kept going 3-and-out and overall it was not a bad outing by the Denver D after the initial deficiency in their game plan.

  18. supra23 says: Oct 10, 2016 1:13 PM

    So they held a team average 40 points a game to 23, how is the defense exposed?

    This game came down the the inability of the bronco’s offense to do anything outside of garbage time.

  19. tyelee says: Oct 10, 2016 1:33 PM

    The Atlanta Falcons, the class of their division!

  20. vishadow says: Oct 10, 2016 1:34 PM

    Just having 2 RBs isn’t the only reason why Atlanta was successful yesterday. The threat of a player like Julio that can stretch the field keeps the Safety in check (I know, Denver’s CBs can play man but they won’t leave gaping holes in the middle of the field by crashing in the Safety on running plays). ATL can line up 2 TEs, 2 RBs and 1 WR to generate a mismatch in personnel. Denver had to counter by preparing for running plays and got caught with the LBs taking poor angles on speedy RBs.

    It was a good game plan, but you have to provide match up issues for all levels of Denver’s D. It just so happened that ATL has solid Oline play since signing Alex Mack to anchor the Center position, and TEs, RBs, and WRs that can all put pressure on the D.

    Ultimately Denver didn’t get embarrassed like Carolina and played a solid game. Atlanta is just clicking with the play calling and execution.

  21. TedHurtz says: Oct 10, 2016 2:53 PM

    dmadras says:
    Oct 10, 2016 12:16 PM
    I don’t think anyone is calling Denver’s front seven “soft” – not by a long shot.
    ===============
    no, and they should call them soft. they should call them one trick ponies, or in this case, donkeys!
    they cant stop the run. they cant stop the pass. they can only rush the qb – and get dirty when things dont go their way.

  22. minson15 says: Oct 11, 2016 11:11 AM

    This week will be awesome to watch. Falcons vs. Seahawks. Two tough weeks for the Falcons but if they are for real they will put up a fight. Strength vs. Strength on this one. However I think Seahawks offense is a lot better than Denver’s offense. Can’t wait for the return of Dan Quinn.

  23. littleseizures says: Oct 11, 2016 8:43 PM

    Huge win for the Falcons. They beat the defending champs on the road. I’ll be watching them play the Hawks for sure.

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