The opening quarter of the Monday night Falcons/Broncos game was complete euphoria for Falcons fans. Under Mike Nolan's leadership, the Falcons defense made Peyton Manning look like a rookie. Manning's first three drives all ended with interceptions. The next three ended in two punts and a fumble. It wasn't until the end of the half that the Broncos were able to put together more than a six yard drive.
Overall, the Falcons defense did a fantastic job of holding Peyton in check. In the second half Peyton and the Broncos did come to life and came back and made it a game as they put together two TD drives in the second half and they wore down the Falcons defense with their no-huddle offense on a 12 play 88 yard drive and then again on a 9 play 45 yard drive.
Despite losing Brent Grimes to a season ending the injury, the secondary really stepped up and answered the bell at the beginning of this game. Starting safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud both had interceptions and so did back-up corner Robert McClain, who was called out by Mike Smith for having a positive impact on the field and said he would get more playing time this week (especially in light of the Christopher Owens concussion).
If you are a Falcons fan you have to be really happy with the way the defense played. In particular, William Moore had a break-out game and looks poised to break out as a star this year. The play of linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas also really stood out as they flew to the football and made plays and seem to be shining in Nolan's system. The only disappointment was the fact that the Broncos were in the game late due to the Falcons not being able to pull away.
Overall, Matt Ryan had a very efficient day offensively as he went 24 of 356 for 219 and two TDs. More importantly, he took care of the football with no turnovers and only took one sack (compare that to Manning's three sacks and three INTs). The biggest thing the Falcons missed today was a consistent run game (although Michael Turner did have a big first down run late in the game) and explosive plays. Roddy White was dynamic in the receiving game as he had 8 receptions for over 100 yards and Tony Gonzalez had a very work-man like performance as well.
At the end of the year all we will remember about this game is how the Falcons stymied Manning in the first half and that we ended up winning. The takeaway is that we have to be more balanced offensively when the situation dictates so that we aren't leaving our defense on the field for the entire fourth quarter.
Get more great Atlanta Falcons news and analysis over at The Grits Blitz.