After beating the Broncos 23-16 in Denver on Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons, at 4-1, look like perhaps the best team in the NFL.
Slow down. The Falcons started 5-0 last year but went 3-8 in their final 11 games.
Then again, last year was last year. This years feels different. This year, there is legitimate hope in Atlanta.
“We saw them jump out to a good start last year and then struggle down the stretch,” CBS Sports NFL writer Will Brinson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But I think what you see different with the Falcons this year is they have this two-headed monster in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman that looked fantastic both in terms of running the ball but also catching the ball.”
Freeman ran 23 times for 88 yards and a touchdown against Denver, while Coleman caught four balls for 132 yards and a score. They combined for 286 yards overall, including 167 through the air.
“A lot of (their production) came in the passing game,” Brinson said. “When Denver said ‘We’re going to double-team Julio Jones and you can try to figure out what you’re going to do after that,’ Matt Ryan and Kyle Shanahan said, ‘Okay, we’re going to play the short passing game with our running backs,’ and it actually worked pretty well. You saw Tevin Coleman take one to the house. They’re just both very nice, modern running backs capable of pounding yards but also picking up chunks in the passing game.”
Jones, one week after catching 12 balls for 300 yards, was limited to two catches for 29 yards, but it didn’t matter. The Falcons got what they needed offensively, as Ryan leads the league with 1,740 passing yards. He is averaging 10.4 passing yards per attempt.
“That’s a first down every time he throws the ball,” Brinson said. “It helps to have Julio and it helps to get 500 yards in a single game, but he’s playing extremely well.”
So is the defense, which limited Denver to three points through three quarters, with Vic Beasley recording 3.5 sacks. The Broncos didn’t find the end zone until the final three minutes of action. By then, the outcome had already been decided.
“I think the defense is starting to kind of form into maybe what Dan Quinn imagined when he took that job,” Brinson said. “Vic Beasley, (that was) the best game of his career against the Broncos in that Week 5 game.”
Atlanta (4-1) plays the Seahawks (3-1) in Seattle this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.