Broncos vs. Falcons: 5 Keys to the Game for Denver
After kicking off the season on Sunday Night Football with an impressive 31-19 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Denver Broncos will be under the bright lights again, this time against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
The Falcons were equally impressive in Week 1 with a 40-24 road win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Peyton Manning has earned high praise for his performance against the Steelers, but they must now focus on a Falcons team that will easily be one of the toughest games on the schedule.
How can the Broncos come out victorious to start the year 2-0? Here are five keys to victory:
The Broncos will be playing inside the Georgia Dome, which is sure to be rocking with the game being on national television.
The crowd will be one of the biggest issues for the Broncos on Monday night but a great way to get the best of that battle would be to put up an early score.
Manning should open the game with the no-huddle offense he befuddled Pittsburgh with, and if he is able to march the Broncos down the field for an early first-quarter score, it will put the pressure on the Falcons to answer the call.
The defense would then be able to settle down, knowing that they had been given a seven-point cushion.
Don't Let Julio Beat You
Second-year wide receiver Julio Jones is poised to have a breakout season and become one of the NFL's best players at that position. Against Kansas City in Week 1, Jones abused the Chiefs, catching six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Did you hear that Denver?
Champ Bailey will likely match up against Jones but they need to bring a safety over the top to shadow him and make sure Jones isn't given the opportunities he was in Kansas City.
The Falcons have another terrific wide receiver in Roddy White, but he is coming into the game listed as questionable with a sore groin. White is expected to play, but if he's less than 100 percent, the Broncos should definitely take their chances with him and the rest of the Falcons receiving corps.
Get off the Field on Third Down, Control Time of Possession
If there was one knock you could make against the Broncos in Week 1, it was the fact that they allowed the Steelers to convert 11 of 19 third-down attempts and have more than a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.The Falcons will make the Broncos pay dearly if either of these is true again Monday night.
Against the Chiefs, the Falcons were able to successfully converge on 50 percent of their third-down attempts.
Going on long, sustained drives that chew up a lot of clock will help the Broncos control this game and it will help take the crowd out of it.
If the Broncos lose time of possession and allow the Falcons to convert 50 percent of their third downs, they will not win this game.
Get Running Backs Involved in Passing Game
Manning did not complete a single pass to a running back in Week 1.
He is usually very precise in where he wants to go with the ball, especially in the no-huddle, but when he lines up in shotgun, checking down to Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno or even Lance Ball may be a strong weapon against the Falcons defense, especially on the turf of the dome.
In situations where the running back is asked to stay in for pass protection, the Broncos should call on Moreno for that. He seems to be the best pass-blocking back on the team and it would allow him to get some more snaps. If Manning can get the ball in his hands after he chips on a blitzing linebacker or safety, it could spell trouble for Atlanta.
Protect the Ball
This one seems obvious, but if this game turns into a shootout, every possession is going to count.
The Falcons forced Kansas City into three turnovers and they turned them into 17 points, cashing in on each one. That is what really blew their Week 1 contest wide open as the score was just 20-17 in favor of Atlanta at halftime.
Manning completed all but seven of his 26 throws against Pittsburgh and made good decisions with the ball. McGahee did have one fumble, so he will have to protect the ball in this game as an opportunistic Falcons defense, who also had three sacks and four hits on Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, will be looking to help the offense by setting them up with short fields.
At the end of this game, one of these teams will be 2-0 and talk of the Super Bowl will be circulating through the media already.
Based on the offensive weapons these two teams have, particularly at quarterback, coupled with the fact that it will be indoors, all signs point to a shootout.
The team that wins will be the team that controls time of possession and limits its mistakes. If the Broncos play the game they played in Week 1, aside from doing a better job of getting off the field on third down and having the ball more than 24 minutes, they should start the season with two wins under their belt.