By Matthew Asher
The NFL is often criticized for its less-than-stellar Monday Night Football matchups. This is one time where the season schedulers were right on the money in selecting this contest.
Both the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos are coming off Week 1 victories with impressive offensive production. Matt Ryan and the Falcons showed off their new high-octane passing attack (with Ryan throwing for 299 yards, three TD’s and rushing for another) as they blew out the Kansas City Chiefs 40-24.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos didn’t put up as many points as the Falcons in their win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was an equally impressive victory. Manning was very economical: completing 19 of his 26 passes for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions as Denver beat Pittsburgh 31-19.
In what looks to be an early season shootout, (Atlanta is favored by 3 points) the game will likely come down to which defense can slow down the opposing offensive better.
For Atlanta to win:
Offensively, the Falcons need to make sure that Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are kept away from Ryan. Last year these two men combined for 21 sacks. Miller is the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and Dumervil was the league leader in sacks a few years ago.
Atlanta’s rushing attack last week against Kansas City was pedestrian at best. Michael Turner only ran for 32 yards on 11 attempts. As a team, Atlanta ran for 84 yards on 23 attempts. While the saying is cliché, you have to keep the defense honest. For Atlanta, this means either getting more yards per attempt while rushing, or simply run more times throughout the game. If Miller and Dumervil know they don’t have to worry about the running game, Ryan will have a long day in the backfield.
The Falcons need to have the ball as much as possible. As great as Manning is (and he’s definitely great), the Bronco offense can’t score if it’s on the bench. Manning typically runs a no-huddle/hurry-up offense which doesn’t chew up as much clock as a regular offensive game plan. This means Atlanta needs to make sure each offensive possession is well-thought out and that each possession uses as much of the clock as possible.
While Miller and Dumervil will be a handful for the Falcons, the matchups between the wide receivers and cornerbacks will decide the outcome of the game. Atlanta’s Julio Jones appears poised to have a breakout season as a sophomore. Denver has Georgia Tech alumni, Demaryius Thomas who looks to be the go-to deep threat for Manning. The question is will Champ Bailey be able to shut down Jones, or will Asante Samuel be able to stop Thomas.
Just like Denver’s defense, Atlanta needs to make the Broncos a one-dimensional team. The easiest way to do this is to shut down Denver’s running attack. While Manning can win without a run game, it makes it that much harder to do when the defense knows they can just blitz and not worry about a screen pass or a delayed handoff.
Overall, the Falcons are 4-9 against the Broncos including the Super Bowl XXXIII game. As would be expected, this AFC West/NFC South matchup doesn’t occur often. Atlanta and Denver have only played either other twice in the past ten years with each team getting a victory as the away team. The last time these teams faced off was in 2008 when Jay Cutler was the Broncos quarterback. The more important stat to pay attention to is the Falcon’s current home field dominance. In the past three years, Atlanta is a phenomenal 20-5 when playing at the Georgia Dome.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Falcons news, see CBS Sports Atlanta.
Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.