1. In victory, the Falcons were equal parts happy and relieved. They knew full well that they’d been starved for Signature Wins, and this qualified. They beat Peyton Manning, who’s among the best ever, and the Denver Broncos, who made the playoffs last season and beat the Steelers once there, on a Monday night. The Falcons led from the game’s third minute until the end, and they made the great Manning look addled early. In sum, it was a big night for this franchise.
2. The Falcons’ secondary might have played its finest game since the 1998 NFC title tilt in Minneapolis. Brent Grimes, who’s a starter, has been lost to an Achilles tear. Asante Samuel, who’s a starter, missed plays Monday night with a neck injury but returned. Christopher Owens, the new nickel back, suffered a head injury and didn’t return. Working with guys such as Robert McClain, who had been cut by both Carolina and Jacksonville, and Dominique Franks, whom the Falcons themselves cut during training camp, they nonetheless made Manning work for everything and intercepted passes on the game’s first three series. Massive kudos to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan for disguising the coverages so deftly.
3. The running game isn’t functioning. The Falcons ran the ball 28 times for 67 yards, and this total includes 19 yards gained on six Matt Ryan scrambles. Michael Turner needed to break a 15-yarder on the final series just to get over 30 yards on the night. (He finished with 42. Then he went out and got himself arrested for DUI.) On 28 carries over the first two games, Turner averaged 2.6 yards. That’s terrible. Coach Mike Smith pointed to Turner’s clinching first down as an indication the Falcons can run when they needed to run, but that seemed sugar-coating.
By Mark Bradley