Vivlamore reporting from the Georgia Dome following the Falcons 27-21 Monday Night win over the Broncos.
Peyton Manning’s first pass was almost intercepted by the Falcons. That was the good news for the Broncos.
The Falcons’ much-maligned secondary made a prime time statement Monday night that this year could be different. The unit propelled the Falcons to a 27-21 victory over the Broncos at the Georgia Dome.
Here is how bad it was for Manning:
* Two plays after that initial attempt, the Broncos’ first drive ended when safety William Moore picked off a third-down pass.
* Three plays into the Broncos’ second possession and safety Thomas DeCoud ended the drive with an interception.
* Six plays into their third possession and cornerback Robert McClain ended the drive with an interception.
* After their fourth possession ended after four plays and a punt, the Broncos fumbled on the third play of their fifth drive.
Ouch. Four of the Broncos’ first five possessions turned into three interceptions and a fumble recovery for the Falcons and a 13-point lead early in the second quarter.
“I think we were holding our disguises,” DeCoud said. “We were kind of confusing [Manning] a bit. I was kind of surprised that we had him on his heels. He usually has defenses on their heels. We stepped up with it and stayed the course.
“When you go up against a quarterback of the quality of Peyton Manning and you play well like we did I think it is a statement. You can go out and have one of the best quarterbacks in the game reeling a little bit and kind of on his heels, I think it does make a statement as far as the talent that we have.”
The Falcons defense needed a statement. It was 20th in the NFL against the past last season, allowing 236.6 yards per game.
The Falcons defense beat up Manning and the Broncos with a depleted secondary. Cornerback Asante Samuel missed a first-quarter series with a neck injury. Nickel back Christopher Owens, playing for Brent Grimes who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon in the season-opener, left the game with a head injury in the first quarter and did not return. Owens was replaced by Dominique Franks, who was waived as part of the final roster cut down to 53 players and then signed again following the Grimes’ injury.
“Hopefully it makes a big statement throughout the league,” said Moore, who had a huge game. “I wouldn’t say we were underestimated or underrated but I feel like we went out there and did our job. We went out there and played some football against, I would say, the best quarterback in the National Football League right now. It was excellent for our secondary. We haven’t been together long with Asante coming in, Brent Grimes down. We stepped up man.”
“Moore nearly had another interception and broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Demaryius Thomas. He also had a sack of Manning, on third down with less than eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, which halted a drive as the Broncos mounted a comeback when the Falcons offense stalled.
“I watched him growing up,” Moore said. “That was my first time playing him. I hope he remembers No. 25.”
The Falcons played nearly the entire game in their nickel package with an extra defensive back. They didn’t run their first – and only – play from a base defense until stopping the Broncos on a third-and-one with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The secondary is excelling under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. In particular, the hybrid safety tandem of Moore and DeCoud has made an impact. The Falcons have five interceptions after two games, three by the safeties.
“It proves that when we need to play big, when we play against a good quarterback, we can get it done,” DeCoud said.
- Chris Vivlamore