Having taken down Denver, the 4-1 Falcons head for Seattle

Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) dives into the end zone for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Tevin Coleman dives and scores. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

DENVER — Vic Beasley Jr. was asked how it felt to beat the reigning Super Bowl champs in their elevated backyard. “Everyone’s happy,” he said. “Everyone’s excited.”

Then, channeling his inner Belichick: “And now it’s on to Seattle.”

And maybe then we’ll know. The Falcons are 4-1, having beaten last season’s Super qualifiers back-and-back and rather handily. But they were 5-0 last year – I know you’re tired of hearing it; I’m tired of writing it – and we were charting the probability of them being the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Fool me once …

After Sunday’s display of power and poise in a famously difficult stadium, Dan Quinn still had to field something of a prosecutorial question: After what happened last year, he was asked, what makes you think you’ll be able to keep it up?  Quinn’s response: “I recognize the question, and the answer is it’s a different outfit. I recognize where you’re going with it, but it’s a different group. We’re a mentally tougher group than we were. We have real ability to understand how we have to reset to get ready to go right back to that process.”

There’s a part of me – the part that just saw Quinn’s Falcons beat John Elway’s team 23-16 – that wants to say, “Know what? He’s right.” Then I note that Denver’s quarterback wasn’t Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler or even Trevor Siemian. It was Paxton Lynch, a rookie backup. Here we stipulate that Siemian, the usual starter, isn’t to be confused with Elway – the Broncos’ offense ranked 21st entering the game – but still: No team is as good without its No. 1.

Once the Falcons got ahead, which happened after three minutes and 42 seconds, there was never a clear and present danger of them falling behind. The defense pressured Lynch the way an NFL defense is supposed to pressure a rookie, but it induced only one turnover – an overthrow that had “Intercept Me” all over it. Ricardo Allen did, and the Falcons soon scored the clinching touchdown.

There can be no faulting the Falcons’ performance Sunday. They were the better team by some distance. They did what they had to do and did it with dispatch. Not so long ago, a day that saw Julio Jones catch two passes for 29 yards would have yielded a thudding loss, but Kyle Shanahan’s offense found alternatives. Even this Shanahan critic had to concede: This was his fourth in a string of nicely managed games.

For all of that, there’s another part of me that wonders: Is this really real? Last season’s 5-0 likewise looked rather dynamic, the victories over Dallas and Houston especially. I’ll concede that the offense is better-rounded – Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are Mr. Outside and Mr. Way Outside, and the line is quite good – but I still wonder about the defense. It had its best game Sunday, but how much of that was due to the identity of the opposing quarterback?

We should know more after Sunday in Seattle. Yes, we saying the same this time last week, but at some point these Falcons will get an asterisk-free test. The guess here – and remember, I’m the guy who called them “a bad team” after the ignominious Tampa Bay opener – is that they’re probably not of Super Bowl timber, which isn’t to say they can’t win the NFC South.

Then again – and how many times can I type “then again”? – they were sitting pretty last October. I do believe there’s something to what Quinn says. A team that craters once is apt to be on its guard against doing the same, is it not? Once bitten, twice shy.

“Give them credit,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “They’re a really good team.” (Shortly thereafter, he was hospitalized for flu-like symptoms. I ascribe no connection to the game itself.)

For the past four weeks, the Falcons have been a really good team. And now it’s on to Seattle, where Quinn once worked, where greater truths stand to be revealed.

Further reading: The Falcons rock a rookie in the Rockies.

Reader Comments 0

100 comments
Okeetee
Okeetee

You know why the Falcons are going to WIN Sunday's game against the Seaducks? Because they are playing against the DUMBEST coach in the entire NFL!  We are talking about a head coach that GAVE AWAY a Superbowl!  Just GAVE IT AWAY!  Passing on 2nd down from the 1/2 yard line with the best fullback in the league in his backfield?  We just put a good coach in the Hospital with a migraine headache trying to figure out a way to stop our offense.....chances are we'll put this guy in a COMA before it's over!  

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Last year the Falcons didn't have this many weapons and all around speed and talent----that's the difference. You give any coordinator this much talent and he'll find a way. I don't think Seattle matches up well against this team. If the Falcons had a winning history, people wouldn't be waiting for them to fall off a cliff.

TideDawg
TideDawg

Films work both ways. The Falcons also know what their opponents are doing. Find a weakness and exploit it. They do it....the Falcons do it. If you can't strengthen your weaknesses,.....you lose. Only the strong survive.

Peachs
Peachs

Film is our enemy.  Every game the NFL gets to figure out what we are doing.  I do believe that real skill overcomes films, you can watch it all day long, with no answer. I am thinking Mack and the arrival of pass catching running backs is the recipe, lets see how Seattle defends that. 


On defense the pass rush has picked up and the first arrivals are making tackles. 

brushback69
brushback69

@Peachs 

that's why offensive balance is such the key today.  We have a leg up on others with this and Ryan can distribute it if Shanahan plans for it.  Great job so far.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I'm not waiting for the Falcons to fall off a cliff, I simply take one game at a time. Now on to the legion of boom, that's a team who doesn't like to give up points and we're a team that likes to score. Something got to give!

TideDawg
TideDawg

I don't think the bloggers were wrong about Shannahan. I think he was told to work with Ryan's strong suits.There is a noticeable change in  attitudes. It's working.....let it be!!

ctfalconsfan
ctfalconsfan

I'll admit I was wrong about Shannahan as I wanted him gone. But he's opened up this offense and kept DCs guessing.


The only knock on the play calling from Denver was 1st and goal fm the 1 and we try to get cute with shut gun formation, rolling Ryan. The call we made on 4th down should have been made on all 3 of the previous downs, double TEs and DiMarco in the back field and power the ball in. It's not fancy but it's safe and gets the same 6 points..

Chopp
Chopp

@ctfalconsfan I would love to give Pat more looks in those situations.

Maybe we're saving it for a special occasion : )

RISE UP

スコット
スコット

I were already connived the Falcons could play with anyone in the NFL on Offense . But the Defense continue to get better  teams in the NFL better watch out . 

NorthFlaFalcon
NorthFlaFalcon

@スコット The tackling is much better. And we are still very good vs the run. Stopping Jimmy Graham will be a challenge with our thin linebacker corps.

NorthFlaFalcon
NorthFlaFalcon

The TV commentators said something interesting about Alford ... "he doesn't trust his speed." So he grabs, and he gets penalties called on him. Sounds like a coaching issue.

brushback69
brushback69

@NorthFlaFalcon 

I think they said he doesn't trust his skills. Even when he's positioned just fine.  Either way, I don't think he's being taught to hold and grab, this is probably just a flaw in his basic instinct that he needs to cut out. He is making some improvement,IMO, but still needs to work harder mentally.

Peachs
Peachs

The NFL South gets better every year not worse. They study the Falcons like a religion, along with the others, Carolina was the best team in football last year, just choked on the big stage. 


Hope Mack stays healthy and if not take note of it, don't act clueless when key guys go down. Every team in the NFL hangs for a band-aid. 

Eric_C
Eric_C

Alex Mack for MVP!!!

tyger
tyger

Kudos all around...


It is a different team...

They have an O-line...

Ryan's 2nd yr. w Shanahan...

i.e. ergonomics...


Cruel schedule littered w asterisks....

Payton Lynch...hobbled Russell Wilson...

No Beast mode...etc...


But that's there problem...

Falcons played w 3rd string LBs...

Who was feeling sorry for ATL?....


Reality check...deja vu...

We saw this last year...

Can't ignore it...


Not so much ATL not that good...

NFL adjusts...its 3 seasons...

And their top dog right now...

They have a bull's eye...


And all signs point upward...

Falcons strong in trenches...

When has anyone ever said that???

Smart, shrewd decisions all around...


Prior years, Hageman would be sitting...

Not this year, he's a bull in china shop...

That type physicality takes a toll...

Even if the stats don't show it...


Freeney rubbing off on Beasley...

When did Beasley acquire spin move...

Freeney accelerating his progression...


Alex Mack is the keystone...

Prior, M.Ryan was a punching bag...

Stupid INTs prolly due to punch drunk...

Now upright, he standing tall, going upfield...


Falcons verticality is new...

Teams still sitting on TE, curls, outs...


Not this year...it's a different team...




Mix2011
Mix2011

I like what I'm watching develop so far.  But I would be careful not to say the Falcons are legit right now.  Knowing their history you would be setting yourself.  If they can get through Seattle, Philly, and Arizona then I will be convinced.  Even if they win 2 of 3 of those games.

Chopp
Chopp

@Mix2011 Eagles just lost to the Lions. We should be ok there, more worried about Arizona turning it around. They have legit weapons in the backfield and out wide.

If we contain Jimmy Graham, I think we beat Seattle handily.

Ride with us Mix!

RISE UP

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

The Bulldogs, though way early in the Smart era, appear to be slinking towards Ray-Goff-like levels of play despite having loads of talent. They also haven't accomplished anything since 1980, but you say "Come on, everybody, these guys are great! Give em a chance!"

The Braves organization has been mismanaged and underfunded into a page one rebuild that's only highlight is a meaningless winning streak that began once the team was 30 games out. No engaged ownership or any real proof that they will ever pay to go the extra mile, but you say "Wow, I love everything about this team and where they're headed! GO BRAVES!!!"

The Hawks have been a dumpster fire of roster management since firing Danny Ferry. An organization that, despite the being sold off to a new owner, still has no clue how to build a championship team and has never been in an NBA Final since moving to Atlanta, but you say "These guys are exciting to watch and anything can happen! HAWK FAN FO LIFE!!!"

The Falcons lose their first game of the season yet have battled back and quantifiably improved every single game since. They boast the best offense in the NFL after five games and have just completed a stretch that saw them win convincingly against the two teams that were in last season's Super Bowl. The day after the team out coached and out played the best defense in football, you say "I ain't buying it, until these bums go a perfect 19-0 I'll never believe that they're legit. Falcons, Schmalcons!"

Could you please give your column space to an intern? Maybe they'll make better use of it.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Chopp

In case you haven't figured it out yet, TOJ's basically an imbecile. As such, reading comprehension is not his strong point.

Come to think of it, not so sure anything is his strong point.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Cheer for those loser Panthers then. We won't miss ya. You're spot on about the dawgs.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@TOJacket I love my Falcons (as my screen name should indicate). To my mind, they are the only organization in the city that does EVERYTHING it can to win a championship. From Blank to the towel boy, that effort has been long (so far unsuccessful) but earnest and diligent.


The AJC, sports radio talking heads, and much of Falcons Fandom refuses to credit this team at every turn (while heaping unbelievable scorn on Matt Ryan, which is completely beyond me given the measure of excellence he has brought to a position this team has always struggled with).


Bradley gushes praise on the frauds in this town that do nothing but the bare minimum required to rob fans of their money. For them, no bad decisions exist, all is forgiven, and "they'll get em next year." For the Falcons, Bradley shows nothing but doubt, disdain, and contempt. 


We all know that this season could go south. We all know that the Seattle game could tell us volumes about this team's potential. But if he can't tell the difference between the way this team has played compared to last season, he either doesn't actually watch the games or he doesn't really care.

kevkat
kevkat

You people who keep talking about " They played against a rookie quarterback" are sad..and you know who you are. They played the team across from them. What were they to do, postpone or reschedule the game until the starter returned? Give me a break. If they had lost the game, all we would hear is how they lost to a team with a rookie quarterback. No satisfying some people I guess. Go Falcons! 

TOJacket
TOJacket

He's a Matty hater.....he's so stupid!!!

TOJacket
TOJacket

We have some of the most pathetic "followers".......I can't stomach calling them fans......they suck.

candlin14
candlin14

@kevkat 

Coming from the one of the biggest Matt Ryan haters in the ATL. KevKat, you quickly changed tunes from your Sunday hate filled blog posts of #2.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Yet again, you can barely write a legible sentence but call others stupid.

Laughable--in a sick sort of way.

eddiewillers
eddiewillers

Mark....I love your writing but, jeeze, you always get it wrong.

candlin14
candlin14

After what I saw from Ishmael yesterday, he might need to stay at the LB position. I liked his aggressiveness. Plus he can hit and tackle. Plus he can cover.

TOJacket
TOJacket

I have never understood how he wasn't on the field all the time.

Taylor Wilson
Taylor Wilson

Well said, but we're also ignoring a big elephant in the room - the fact that this year's schedule is WAY tougher than the stretch at the beginning of last season. 3 road wins, 1 of them at a good team (Oakland) and one great (Denver). Last season's 6-1 stretch saw wins in New York and Dallas, but neither of those teams made the playoffs. The jury is still out, but at the very least this team is better than 2015. I'd be shocked if they don't get to 10 wins. 

Eric_C
Eric_C

And I would argue that winning a MNF game at NO is as impressive as any.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I think they can beat Seattle, it's going to be hard to defend us. The Falcons might get Deon Jones back with De'vondre Campbell who is tall and fast to keep up with Jimmy Graham. It's going to be a hard fought battle. Richard Sherman just defends only one side, so Julio can be moved around. I like the fact that Dan Quinn is very familiar with the Seattle team. I think the defense is getting better and probably will have Jason Collins in the line up next week.

falconfever
falconfever

There is no better 1/2 combo in the nfl than our backs  Coleman can flat fly and freeman is so quick and tough. great game plan yesterday just like against Carolina.  Clock management still a problem as at end of first half there were like 2 minutes 25 seconds left. Falcons have 2nd and 8 clock is running and did not have to get play off until 2 minute mark but throw incompletion, don't make it on 3rd and punt with maybe 2:10 on clock. I think denver got off one play before warning. I was screaming at tv  Could have had second and 8 at two minute mark.  30 or 40 seconds we could have kept ball. Other than that...


RISE  UP

TideDawg
TideDawg

I'm not going to fault a coach for making a challenge, because I don't know why it was done. Challenges usually take longer than timeouts so maybe they challenge to have more rest for a D or more time to analyze the next play they want to run. They may be trading a 30 second timeout for a 2 or 3 minute challenge. I have to assume they know what they are doing.

candlin14
candlin14

@TideDawg 

That is actually a good point, but we can not use conditioning as an excuse. One more time out left before the half could have been used on Denvers last possession before halftime for more points. The FALCONS DEFENSE WILL ALWAYS NEED AS MANY POINTS AS WE CAN POSSIBLY MUSTER!

WhyorWhyNot
WhyorWhyNot

I'm tired of these writers talking about Denver's starting quarterback being out. All of our linebackers were out. The absence of three starting linebackers cancels out the absence of one starting quarterback.  

Chopp
Chopp

I'm just happy some of the "this team has been horrible for 50 years so i cant get behind them blah blah blah" crowd to just shut it.

You are the reason we Atlanta fans get a bum wrap.

You guys never enjoy the present or have a positive outlook on the future. Just sit in your hand-me-down rocking chairs and whine and moan about the past.

I really dont think the bulk of you even know what being a fan is.

Its getting behind your team and believing.

Try it one time. And if they lose? So be it. Get up the next game and believe they will win the next one.

This team is SPECIAL. 

I have been trying to tell you all since we got DQ. He is the right man for the job. We ARE going places with or without the bandwagoners.

RISE UP ATLANTA

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Great point, except these guys always give Georgia a pass despite the Dawgs having accomplished nothing since 1980. Bradley seems to just intensely dislike Blank and the Falcons as an organization. Sad.

candlin14
candlin14

@Chopp 

There is no denying your optimism Chopp. I hate the bandwagon fans as well, but please do not think we are Division champs or even super bowl contenders just yet. We still have a lot of football left to play with a lot of good passing QBs yet to play. Our secondary is suspect at best and Robert Alford is arguably the worst cover corner in the NFL. 

Chopp
Chopp

@candlin14 We are certainly winning our division.

Believe it Candlin!