GAME DAY CENTRAL: Broncos vs. Falcons on MNF

QB corner: Matt Ryan discusses Denver

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan knows how to lift the curtain for the home opener, which is Monday night against the Denver Broncos.

He’s 4-0 in home openers, and the Falcons have averaged 32.2 points in those victories over Detroit (34-21 in 2008), Miami (19-7 in 2009), Arizona (41-7 in 2010) and Philadelphia (35-31 in 2011).

Here’s a brief Q&A involving Ryan and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Q: What type of challenge does the offense face in Denver pass rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller?

A: They are really talented guys. … They are guys that when you game plan, you game plan accordingly to protect yourself against what they can do. It will come down to execution.

Q: What’s your evaluation of their corners Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter?

A: I think both of them are really good. We know Tracy from having played in New Orleans. He’s a talented guy, a guy who can make some plays. He’s aggressive. Clutch. When you look back at the Super Bowl [against the Colts three seasons ago] he can come up with big plays at the right time. Then Champ Bailey, we don’t see him as often, but when you watch him on film, he’s a really, really solid player. Very talented. He’s been to the Pro Bowl 11 times, so that speaks for itself. It’s going to be a good matchup for us.

Q: How different will it be seeing Keith Brooking on the other side?

A: We played Brooking a couple of years ago in Dallas. It’s always good. … I think he played nine snaps last week. I’m sure he’ll be in there in different situations. We know Keith. He’s talented against run or pass. He’ll do a good job for them.

The X factor: Running back Michael Turner

Falcons running back Michael Turner emerges from the smoke and fire to take on the Ravens in Atlanta. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons running back Michael Turner emerges from the smoke and fire to take on the Ravens in Atlanta. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons running back Michael Turner was held to 32 yards on 11 carries in the opener against Kansas City.

Turner, a two-time Pro Bowler, will be needed against the Broncos on Monday night and is the X-factor for the game.

If the Falcons don’t establish the rushing attack, they won’t be able to play keep-away from Peyton Manning and the Denver offense.

Turner expects tough sledding against a rugged Denver defense.

“Nobody talks about their linebacking corps, but they are a great defense,” Turner said. “They played a great game against Pittsburgh last week.”

The Broncos’ starting linebackers are Wesley Woodyard (from LaGrange), Joe Mays and Von Miller. Former Falcons standout Keith Brooking backs up Woodyard at weakside linebacker and plays in mostly run situations.

“We have to run the ball, especially when you have a great quarterback like Peyton Manning on the other side,” Turner said. “We have to control the clock, control the tempo of the game, and hopefully we can keep them off the field as much as possible and score touchdowns. You don’t want give that guy any extra chances to beat you.”

Turner had four 100-yard games in six matchups against John Fox when he was the coach of the Carolina Panthers.

“We felt like it was an advantage for us to throw last week,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “It’s one of those things where we think we can do whatever we need to do. I think we are talented that way. If we have to run it 50 times, we’ll run it 50 times. It’s just the way that certain games shake out.”

Quite frankly, the Falcons haven’t spent a lot of time on the running game in the offseason, and Turner is getting used to new fullback Lousaka Polite.

“We want to take what they give us, but obviously it does start up front with the running game,” center Todd McClure said.

On the hot seat: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon

(Spoon was limited last week with a hamstring injury and is questionable for the game.)

060612 FLOWERY BRANCH :  Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon fires up teammates during warmups for team practice at Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 6, 2012.  CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

060612 FLOWERY BRANCH : Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon fires up teammates during warmups for team practice at Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 6, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the team’s defensive signal-caller, put in some extra study sessions after practices to prepare for his matchup with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

“Yes, I do,” said Weatherspoon when asked if he considered part of this game to be a matchup of wits with Manning. “It starts with the linebackers, getting the call from the sidelines. They are going to try to up-tempo us a little bit, so it’s our job to match his tempo.”

Weatherspoon, who was limited in practice with a hamstring injury, is basically the quarterback of the defense from his weakside linebacker spot. Keeping his poise against Manning will be key.

“That will be a big part of my game trying to make sure that I keep everybody in a comfortable mood, where we are locked in and ready to go,” Weatherspoon said. “We don’t want to be out there panicking. When they look at me when I’m getting the calls, if I’m confident, we all will be confident. I think that will help us win the game.”

One problem the Broncos present is their “22” formation — two running backs and two tight ends. Most teams like the run in that formation, but with an athletic-pass catching tight end in Jacob Tamme, the Broncos will pass from the formation.

“That’s poses a challenge, but we are tuned into him,” Weatherspoon said. “The coaches have done a great job of game planning.”

Connections

Falcons coach Mike Smith (2003-07) and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (2007-11) both were on the

Jack Del Rio speaking to the media following a morning practice at Flowery Branch in 2010 when he was Jacksonville's head coach. (D.Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Jack Del Rio speaking to the media following a morning practice at Flowery Branch in 2010 when he was Jacksonville's head coach. (D.Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

 staff in Jacksonville when Jack Del Rio was the head coach.

Del Rio now is Denver’s defensive coordinator.

“Jack gave me my first opportunity in the NFL, so I will always be indebted to him for that,” Koetter said. “But this is a players’ game, and we are both in new situations. We are both trying to earn our way with new teams. It’s nothing more than that.”

Also, Denver is led by former Carolina Panthers coach John Fox, who’s in his second season with the team. Smith holds a 4-2 record in games against Fox.

Other connections include:

  • Falcons defensive line coach Ray Hamilton also coached under Del Rio in Jacksonville.
  • Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has had two stints with the Broncos. He was their defensive coordinator in 2009 and their linebackers and special-teams coach from 1987-92.
  • Falcons secondary coach Tim Lewis coached for Fox on the Panthers’ staff in 2007-08.
  • Falcons linebacker Akeem Dent and Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno were teammates at Georgia.
  • Falcons defensive tackle Vance Walker and Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas were teammates at Georgia Tech.
  • Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas and defensive end Elvis Dumervil were teammates at Louisville.
  • Broncos linebacker Keith Brooking played his first 11 seasons with the Falcons and played at Tech.
  • Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, an 11-time Pro Bowler, starred at Georgia.

Stat corner: Falcons’ pass defense will get tested

110801 Flowery Branch - Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens looks for the interception during a coordination drill while players run through the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011.     Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

110801 Flowery Branch - Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens looks for the interception during a coordination drill while players run through the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

After a 20-month layoff because of neck surgery, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, the NFL’s only four-time MVP, was sharp in his return.

He completed 19 of 26 passes (73.1 percent) for 253 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-19 victory over Pittsburgh.

The Falcons’ secondary allowed 258 yards passing and one touchdown to Kansas City’s Matt Cassel and will be without their top cover corner in Brent Grimes, who suffered an Achilles injury and is out for the season.

Dunta Robinson will shift to right cornerback, and Christopher Owens will play nickel back.

Cornerback Asante Samuel talks a big game, but he prepares thoroughly by watching lots of film. He’s the locker-room expert on Manning.

“He’s had some experience going against Peyton, and I’m sure he can enlighten [the cornerbacks] on a lot of things,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Peyton is a very good quarterback, and we will try and gain an advantage any way we can. We’ll use the resources that Asante has in terms of the number of games he’s played against him.”

Samuel has put in a lot of film work this week to be ready for Manning.

“I think it’s quality over quantity,” Samuel said. “I watch a lot of film, but it’s about watching the right things and taking the right things from the tape and applying it to the game to make your game that much better. I do my studying. … There is definitely a method to how I flow out there.”

THE LATEST NEWS

TV, Radio: Broncos vs. Falcons, 8:30 p.m. on MNF

INJURY REPORT: Weatherspoon, Clabo are questionable; Kuper out for Denver

Matt Bryant: The Alligator Whisperer

Brent Grimes out for the season

Video: What loss of Grimes means

Falcons offense makes it look easy

Still room for improvement in run game

Matt Ryan, Dirk Koetter form bond on and off the field

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

252 comments Add your comment

charles

September 17th, 2012
6:23 am

UPGRAYEDD

September 17th, 2012
6:24 am

Mike from London

September 17th, 2012
6:25 am

first from London

UPGRAYEDD

September 17th, 2012
6:25 am

I’ll take the silver.

I’m worried about our secondary. I have a bad feeling about tonite.

charles

September 17th, 2012
6:26 am

Now that’ out of the way. Let’s rise up bird land,FALCONS 35-17 now we roll..

Samuel

September 17th, 2012
6:37 am

The Falcons have to out -score them by any means necessary. You have to win in prime time. If you get a bad call by the replacement refs, you can’t let it get you down.

Clown called jss

September 17th, 2012
6:57 am

Watch what happens tonight and recognize thar we now have good coaching in the ATL

The Real Rick

September 17th, 2012
7:00 am

These are the type of games that will show if the falcons have taken the next step….tough to say its a big game in week 2 but this is a BIG game….

El Snipero

September 17th, 2012
8:02 am

Ed

September 17th, 2012
8:15 am

The offense needs to make sure they score touchdowns when they are in the red zone. Cant settle for field goals. I think Julio and Roddy are going to step up big tonight.

dwayne

September 17th, 2012
8:33 am

Keith Brooking good against run and pass? lmfao!!!!

Mike is Back

September 17th, 2012
8:49 am

Dled, the BIRDS have been presented with a HUGE opportunity…Mike Smith can’t play conservative…he has got to go after Peyton.

GET Rogers out in space…they are going to key on Turner.

RISE UP BIRDS…LET’S GO…LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

0-2 CAINTS

September 17th, 2012
8:51 am

UPGRAYEDD
September 17th, 2012
6:25 am

I’m worried about our secondary. I have a bad feeling about tonite.

UPGRAYEDD – MUST BE A BRONCO’S FAN…………..! YOU ARE RIGHT TO HAVE THAT BAD FEELING.

———————————–RISE UP——————————

Esquire

September 17th, 2012
9:08 am

You are going to see some new scheme’s tonight, plays held out of preseason and the Chiefs games. It’s gonna be fun. Anybody else want to see Dominique Davis in a wildcat or under center with a designed QB run?

The X factor

September 17th, 2012
9:09 am

“We have to run the ball”.
Michael Turner should be well rested after only eleven carries last week.

Hurricance Watch

September 17th, 2012
9:15 am

Must be a storm moving through new orleans. Must have hit hard too. Cause all those saints fans have scattered like roaches. And seems as if all of their communication devices are not working due to the violent storm that has hit them. We got something to prove tonight and I anticipate a hard hitting, intense game. If our defense can play as good or better than they did last week in the second half I like our chances. Wish we had a back like that guy in Seattle or one of the steelers running back. Man they run with an attitude. Maybe turner can go to Home Depot and pick up a attitude cause he is the weakest link on our offense right now.

LL

Red Pants

September 17th, 2012
9:26 am

Cannot wait to walk out the Dome with a W and my hands held high tonight, decked out in orange and blue….

GO BRONCOS

chc4

September 17th, 2012
9:28 am

Uh no I don’t want to see Dominique Davis anywhere on the field tonight.

Protect Ryan and we will outscore them. If Von Miller and Dumervil beat Baker/Clabo consistently we lose. It’s that simple.

True Falcon Fan

September 17th, 2012
9:30 am

I’m one that will be here win or lose — what say you “CHOKE”?

MR2 & Falcons win this game!

Bet the over and take the home team: Falcons 38 —- Broncos 23

Go Falcons — Chargers next

GO FALCONS

September 17th, 2012
9:31 am

Crush the broncos.

jimmyb

September 17th, 2012
9:36 am

Wow, Buffalo crushing KC takes the fun out our opening win… Let’s see.

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
9:48 am

It is a thing called confidence ……………………Ryan plays with it and is determined ………….then he will put the points on the board and possibly win this game if the defense plays up to their potential and keeps Manning off the field………………..this could be another lop-sided victory for the Falcons.

I am taking the Birds in this one 33 -27…………..not as close as the score………………………..the Falcons will be home and fired up for this one…………………………………………………………..

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
9:51 am

I posted this all last week and so far true to form……………………..

This is what the NFC South will look like Tuesday Morning……………………………………………………..

NFC South Standings
Atlanta 2 – 0
Tampa Bay 1 – 1
Carolina 1 – 1
New Orleans 0 – 2

seanthisb4

September 17th, 2012
9:52 am

The falcants cannot win bc they do not have an elite qb or team like the mighty Saints. These falcuoons can even stop the run! O when they come marching in o when the saints come marching in LOL

seanthisb4

September 17th, 2012
9:52 am

The falcants cannot win bc they do not have an elite qb or team like the mighty Saints. These falcuoons can even stop the run! O when they come marching in o when the saints come marching in LOL

falCANS

September 17th, 2012
9:54 am

It all comes down to Julio vs. champ. Can Julio demand the doublw team?? Dfense, we need big day from our DE’s

sam

September 17th, 2012
9:56 am

Ok, now that Grimes is gone, we have to depend on DR to shut down Erick Decker. The last time I checked, DR hasn’t been able to cover anyone, let alone a smart receiver like Decker. It’s going to be a long night in GA dome if we can’t pressure Manning

crackbaby

September 17th, 2012
10:00 am

Hey, has anybody “Seen Dat loser sneaking out of town before”?

Falcons have a great opportunity tonight. A lot of flops on MNF over the years but this is a new era. Time to put a big ugly skid mark on Peyton Manning’s comeback story…

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
10:02 am

Oh how I pity the doubting Fans who claim to be Falcon Fans…….stay true to form and support your Team and leave all the doubt behind…..anyone that would think one player going down with an injury last week is the difference in this Team as a whole winning or losing does not show me much……………………………………………..

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
10:03 am

He’s 4-0 in home openers, and the Falcons have averaged 32.2 points in those victories

crackbaby

September 17th, 2012
10:07 am

Denver’s run D is weak.

Mike Turner and Jacquiz should have a party. A “Keep Peyton on the sidelines with his hands in his pants” party…

D man

September 17th, 2012
10:10 am

I believe we will win tonight. Time to open up a can of whoopass. Let’s Go FALCONS!!!

crackbaby

September 17th, 2012
10:10 am

@Michael M – Totally with you. So many doubters and haters.

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
10:14 am

D-led………..grab a box of Falcon hats and towels for the doubters and Caint Fans who are ready to be converted…………………….lmao………………………………..

Esquire

September 17th, 2012
10:15 am

@Red Pants
September 17th, 2012
9:26 am

That folks is a perfect example…………a bandwagon jumper on-er…………………..

………….former Caints fan?

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
10:17 am

What happen to tampa-1 ? I see he shaddup…………………ha !

Post-It

September 17th, 2012
10:20 am

Yesterday was the first time I’ve pulled for a team in our conference in a long time. But that beat down of the lowly Saints by the Panthers was sure fun to watch. As for Lofton, TD and Co. are looking like geniuses for letting him go. He was horrible against the pass (we knew that) and the run! Now let’s take care of business tonight and we’ll shut the trolls up for weeks.

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
10:23 am

I tried to tell SeenThisBzip but some folks just too hard-headed for a break-through…………..oh well, live and learn…………………………………..

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 17th, 2012
10:25 am

Michael M – This is a big one. They can get a lot of folks off the fence with a W over Manning.

Esquire

September 17th, 2012
10:25 am

falCANS
September 17th, 2012
9:54 am

It all comes down to Julio vs. champ. Can Julio demand the doublw team?? Dfense, we need big day from our DE’s
_____________________________________________________

Champ can’t afford to sit on one receiver. It would be nice if Ray Edwards would care to SHOW UP…..!!!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 17th, 2012
10:26 am

crackbaby — You might see the Falcons get into the Wishbone tonight!!! (Actually, they have shown some inverted wishbone stuff.

Cejay

September 17th, 2012
10:27 am

nothing like a 0-2 start to keep the trolls away……

The dome is going to have to make life miserable for the broncos………send them on to the glue factory

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 17th, 2012
10:27 am

Where are the Saints trolls now????? Hope they go hide and let my Falcons commenters have some fun.

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
10:30 am

Champ Bailey can’t even comprehend Julio Jones much less cover him…………………….Falcons have too many weapons on offense and Denver can’t cover everybody…………………………………………

Michael M.

September 17th, 2012
10:34 am

WhatIfSports Predicts: DEN 23 ATL 21…………………………..Atlanta always gets the shaft on these Prime Time Games………………its time for a change and it starts tonight………………………..

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 17th, 2012
10:34 am

Mike is Back — I like that. Yeah, if I’m D.C. we’re switching back and forth between a blitzes and cover-9! I want to get some hits on him early. Not sure If I’d take a personal foul penalty, but he has to be hit early. BayBay can’t get over the top. TDeCoud and Willie Mo have to be aware of his speed.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 17th, 2012
10:35 am

dwayne – Yeah, that was funny. He only plays against the run, according to my Denver people.

The Reader

September 17th, 2012
10:35 am

As much as we all wish to win tonight – it is not going to happen. That will be a prologue to major changes in February 2013….

sam

September 17th, 2012
10:36 am

Michael M, I admire your enthusiasm for the Falcons but I’m just trying to analyze the match up. We have no pass rusher except for JA and if Peyton has more than 3 seconds in the pocket, he’s going to pick our D apart. Everyone agrees that DR is a bust and plays 10 yds off the receiver every time. Our offense is exciting but Denver has a formidable pass rush. I would love to see our Falcons win but it’s going to be tough

JSS

September 17th, 2012
10:38 am

“Saints trolls?” Come on Ledbetter, you’re better than that… The death of Snarky Central at Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands last January was the best thing that “ever” happened to your blog… Don’t try to resurrect that corpse…