The Atlanta Falcons have begun to right the ship, winning for the third time in their four games under interim head coach Raheem Morris, after an 0-5 start to the season cost previous head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff their jobs.
Atlanta defeated a frisky Denver Broncos team by the final score of 34-27, improving to 3-6 for the season and providing at least a glimmer of hope that 2020 won't be a complete failure for the Falcons. The Broncos dropped to 3-5.
Here are 5 takeaways fans can infer from this game.
5. Should The Broncos Be Concerned About Melvin Gordon III?
Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons marked the second consecutive subpar contest for the Broncos’ prized free agent addition. Gordon had 8 carries for 26 yards against the Los Angeles Chargers last week, and just 6 carries for 18 yards against Atlanta.
In fairness, fellow running back Phillip Lindsay wasn’t much better against Atlanta, which may lead the Broncos coaching staff to point the blame more on offensive line play than either individual back.
Denver still probably wasn’t expecting these types of numbers though, as they hoped to bring in talented support for second year QB Drew Lock.
4. The Future of Wide Receiver Play Was on Full Display
It’s unfortunate that Falcons WR Calvin Ridley couldn’t play in this game due to a foot injury, but the Alabama Crimson Tide alumni gathering was still on, due to the presence of Falcons veteran WR Julio Jones and Broncos rookie WR Jerry Jeudy.
Both Jones and Jeudy did not disappoint in this game, both posting impressive statistical games, and each reaching the endzone for their respective teams.
Coming into the game, the Jones complimented the young Jeudy on his crisp route running ability, and it was probably cool for Jones to see the young receiver play well firsthand.
3. Could Raheem Morris Be The Permanent Man For The Falcons' Job?
Although the Atlanta Falcons still find themselves in heart-pounding finishes week in and week out, the main difference is that they are now consistently winning these close games. Last week against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons were able to prevent Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater from leading a 4th quarter drive that could’ve allowed them to tie the game.
In the waning moments against the Broncos, Atlanta’s defense did just enough to hold on against a fast charging Drew Lock and the Denver offense. Lock tried to find Jeudy a couple of times on the Broncos’ final drive, but Atlanta was able to crack down on that connection when it mattered most.
It doesn’t really matter how they get it done, but the fact of the matter is that they are, and coach Morris deserves credit for their mini resurgence. He’s instilled a level of confidence in the team that was lacking earlier in the season.
2. Drew Lock Certainly Makes Things Interesting
It’s fair to wonder how good the Denver Broncos would be record-wise had Lock not missed time earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, and if they ever decide to play football in the first half of games.
In the two first halves of last week’s game and this week’s game, they’ve scored a combined total of 6 points. In the two second halves of last week’s game against the Chargers and today’s game against the Falcons, they’ve scored a combined total of 52 points. Maybe they just like to set themselves up for roaring comebacks, and they’ve shown that despite deficits, they are never out of the game with Lock at the helm.
Lock rushed for a touchdown with 1:52 remaining in the game, to cut the Atlanta lead to a one possession game. While Denver wasn’t able to pull it out this week, team’s confidence in their starting quarterback has to be growing with each passing week.
1. The Falcons Won, But Still Made It Harder Than It Had To Be
While Raheem Morris does deserve credit for being on the right side of the ledger in these games, the fact that the Falcons continue to let large leads dissipate in the second half remains a cause for concern.
After RB Todd Gurley II scored a touchdown early in the 4th quarter to make it 34-13 Falcons, the script unfolded in a fashion that Falcons fans are way too familiar with. On their next drive, Atlanta ran the ball once with Gurley in what resulted in a three and out, and their subsequent possession saw that pattern repeat itself, allowing the Broncos to get back in the game.
The Falcons’ postseason dreams will be difficult to restore in 2020, but if they want to keep up their winning ways, the offensive line will need to execute better late in games, and Atlanta’s playcalling will need to improve to avoid the heartache they so often experienced with Dan Quinn.