Broncos-Falcons: Denver's Rookies Pay Huge Dividends in Win Over Atlanta

Brad JamesCorrespondent INovember 16, 2008

As the Denver Broncos have now won two games in a row, their numerous injuries notwithstanding, the stellar rookie class of 2008 (featuring the likes of Eddie Royal and Ryan Clady) deserves much of the credit.

Undoubtedly, much of the plaudits should go to returned LDS missionary and former All Pac-10 performer, Spencer Larsen. Larsen, who served a two-year mission to Chile, honed his craft at Arizona and was a major force in Mike Stoops' defense for the Wildcats. (Incidentally, as my bio confirms, I was on my mission in Tucson, AZ, so it's cool to have a fellow-returned missionary contributing to my favorite NFL team).

Larsen also became the first player in Broncos history, and the first NFL player since Orlando Brown of the Baltimore Ravens in 2003, to start on both offense and defense, as he got the nod at middle linebacker and fullback.

Although he left the defense in passing situations and deferred to stud fullback Peyton Hillis on the goal line (two touchdowns for the former Arkansas star on the day), his contributions were invaluable to the Broncos.

Larsen made several key plays defensively, which helped to flummox the NFL's second-ranked rushing offense, while Michael Turner was limited to 81 rushing yards. Incidentally, three successive star tailbacks, (Ronnie Brown, Jamal Lewis, and Turner) have been held to less than 100 rushing yards against this much-maligned defense.

Of course, after being outgained 200-88 by the Falcons in the first half, the Broncos managed to turn the tide in the second half, via pinpoint passing by Jay Cutler.

While Cutler's stats (19 of 27, 216 yards, TD) weren't mind-blowing as they were at Cleveland last week, he did what he had to do.  Unlike rookie phenom Matt Ryan, he did not turn the ball over, which is a positive sign considering his track record.

With all of that said, the Broncos' win was among the more impressive in the NFL this weekend and they now seek to increase their lead in the AFC West with a win over bitter rival Oakland.

As a lifelong Broncos fan, I must confess that I've never been more proud to be a fan of the orange and blue than I am right now.