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Broncos' Todd Davis addresses scheme that cracked vaunted defense

Ken Pomponio Avatar
October 10, 2016


DENVER – The league’s highest-scoring and most effective offense did get its yards and points against the Denver defense Sunday, but it wasn’t in the manner the Broncos necessarily expected.

Atlanta running backs combined for eight receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ 23-16 upset win, accounting for 53.3 percent of Matt Ryan’s 15 completions, 67.4 percent of his passing yards and 100 percent of his aerial TDs. Second-year back Tevin Coleman led the way with four catches for 132 yards, including a game-breaking 31-yard scoring wheel-route grab up the seam with 7:53 remaining in the third quarter to put the visitors ahead 20-3. Coleman beat linebacker Brandon Marshall on the play—an all-too-common sight on the day.

“They did put some things in there for us—just for our linebackers for sure,” Broncos linebacker Todd Davis said afterward. “They just did a good job of executing.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan echoed that.

“They have a really good secondary and their defense is outstanding,” he explained of the Broncos. “We have great receivers, and I have great respect for what they did, but we felt like our best matchup was getting our backs out of the backfield.”

The Falcons entered the contest off a Week 4 demolition of the Panthers in which Ryan threw for a franchise-record 503 yards—300 of them going to Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones. But even with the Broncos effectively taking away Jones—he finished with two receptions for 29 yards on six targets—to continue the Orange & Blue’s extended run of success against opposing wideouts, the backs were a stunningly effective weapon for Atlanta after they combined for only six catches for 39 yards against Carolina.

“On flim, they were more tight end-oriented against linebackers,” Davis said. “Today, they changed up their scheme.”

Credit offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as the balanced Falcons piled up 372 yards on 62 plays for an average of an even six yards per play against a defense allowing a league-low 4.3 per play entering the game. Freeman (23 carries for 88 yards and a TD) and Coleman (6-31) also combined for 119 of Atlanta’s 122 rushing yards, putting each back over 120 total yards on the afternoon.

In the Broncos’ first four games, opposing running backs had only caught 15 passes for 100 yards—a yardage total obliterated by Coleman himself Sunday. The Broncos and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has been a master at in-game adjustments, had no answer this time.

“It was more scheme,” Davis reiterated. “They schemed against what we do and how we play certain packages. They ran most of their offense through that.”

It was a definite lesson to be learned.

“Now we have to expect the unexpected from teams,” Davis concluded. “Even if we think we know their playbook, we have to expect different formations and different looks. We have to be ready to play.”

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