The Falcons get the ball first and seem very out-of-sync. Two dropped passes and a short throw on 3rd and 10 lead to a disappointing 3-and-out. Denver, on the other hand, drives the field behind many completions by Jay Cutler to a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
On their second drive, Atlanta has a few runs for 2 yards or less (including a couple of “Wildcat formations” with little success). But Ryan completes passes to White, Jenkins and Finneran (key 3rd down) to set-up a 46-yard field goal by Elam for a 7-3 game.
Denver goes 3-and-out on their final drive of the 1st quarter after failing on a 3rd-and-1, relying on new running back Tatum Bell (just signed this week).
On the first play of Atlanta next drive (last play of the quarter), Ryan finds White one-on-one (against Denver’s best corner Dre Bly) down the sidelines for a completion of 35 yards.
1st quarter analysis – Denver completing a lot of short balls (Atlanta has yet to get pressure on Cutler even with a blitz or two), but no running game to speak of. After a slow start, Ryan looks in-sync with receivers and Atlanta is running the ball a number of times (which usually bodes well for the second half).
After two lackluster runs, Matt Ryan improvises on 3rd and long, completing a pass to Jenkins rolling left. Atlanta is already in field goal range on their 3rd drive of the game. Ryan is now 8/10 for 100 yards. The drive stalls at the 20, resulting in another field goal by Elam. Two scores in 3 possessions so far.
Huge return by Eddie Royal, sets up Denver in Atlanta territory to start their 3rd drive. Chris Houston makes a big play on 3rd down, deflecting a pass, to force a field goal attempt from 49 yards, which misses wide left.
Three Michael Turner runs produce 9 yards and a disappointing 3-and-out from Atlanta after getting good field position. But Atlanta goes for it on 4th, a hard count gets an offsides call and an automatic first. Great cadence by Ryan to extend the drive in Denver territory. Ryan is now 8/13 after a long incompletion to White. Ryan rolls out against the blitz completing a great pass to White on 3-and-8 down inside the 10-yard-line, nearly scoring. Touchdown by Turner on 1st down. Great blocking, good read by Turner. Atlanta leads 13-7 halfway through the 2nd quarter. Three scores on 4 drives today.
Another good return by Royal out to the 42-yard-line. A stuffed run and false start lead to a 2nd and 14 for Denver. A double reverse picks up 10 yards and sets them up for a 3rd and 4 for the first down. Chauncey Davis blows up a toss to Eddie Royal to force another punt from Denver.
Atlanta begins at the 17 after a fair catch. Norwood gets a big 12-yard run on 3rd and 1 to extend the drive with under 4 minutes to go in the half. Ryan has run twice on the drive, once converting on 3rd-and-1 to get down to the Denver 43. Atlanta hasn’t allowed a sack yet, but Denver is getting pressure on Ryan the past few throws. 3 incompletions and Atlanta will punt with a minute to go. Ryan is 10/18 with 145 yards.
Denver will start at the 15 with two timeouts and 55 seconds left in the half. There’s only 30 seconds left after two completions for 10 yards. Will Denver shut it down with only one timeout left? Cutler is 11/14 for 79 yards thus far. A sack ends their drive and a possible opportunity for Atlanta. A questionable fair catch by Douglas at the 43-yard-line leaves Atlanta with a timeout and 9 seconds. Atlanta downs the ball to end the half, 13-7 the Falcons lead.
At the half, Denver has only 88 yards, Atlanta with 200, holding the ball for almost 19 minutes and 10 first downs. Total plays, Atlanta 38, Denver 22. After a slow start, Atlanta ends with 55 yards rushing in the half, with the lead, Atlanta will get to its season avergage in the 2nd half.
John Abraham gets nicked up on the 1st play of the second half. Atlanta forces a 3rd and short, which Denver converts with a swing pass to Hillis. 12/15 for Cutler. Like the 1st drive of the game, Denver is moving straight down the field – two more completions and a big run by Tatum Bell. Atlanta stiffens to force a 3rd and goal from the 2-yard-line. Easy score on an outside run by Hillis, his second on the day. Denver leads 14-13 after a 5 minutes drive to open the second half. 11 plays, 77 yards on the drive.
Two big runs by Turner are a good sign, the second called back by a holding call – 2nd and 12 for Atlanta. Two Norwood catches gets the first down. Ryan is 12/20 for 168 yards now. Atlanta almost up to 80 yards rushing now with Turner having 42 yards and a TD. A Ryan sneak gets another 1st down around the 40 yard-line, the drive already taking 4 minutes off the clock. Jenkins for 13 yards, past mid-field now. No-huddle the last two plays, great control of the game by Ryan. Big pressure on a 3rd down results in Ryan throwing off his back foot, an interception, only his 6th of the season. No points after holding the ball for over 6 minutes.
Cutler goes back to work, getting Denver back into Atlanta territory. Cutler now 16/21 on the day. Brooking with a pass interference call, giving Denver 1st-and-goal. 3rd-and-goal from the 2-yard-line, with only 17 seconds left in the 3rd quarter. Atlanta sticks the run up the middle to force a field goal, opening the 4th quarter. 17-13 Denver.
Atlanta begins at the 23-yard-line on a very important drive. Finneran with a key catch to convert on 3rd down and into Denver territory. Finneran with another catch on 3rd down – he doesn’t catch a lot of balls, but it’s always in a key spot. White has 93 yards on the day, Ryan is 16/25 for 217 yards. Only 82 yards on the day rushing for Atlanta. On cue, Turner scores a 28-yard touchdown, his second on the day, now with 78 yards. Under 11 minutes to play, Atlanta leads 20-17. Turner with 4 rushes for 39 yards on the drive.
Atlanta finally makes a play on Royal’s kickoff return, holding him inside the 20. The crowd is back in the game for the first time in the second half. A stuffed run and an incomplete pass leads to 3rd and long. Cutler delivers with a deep pass to Marshall, down to the Atlanta 33 yard-line. Three runs get the ball down to the 11. A holding penalty, backs it up to the 22-yard-line, 2nd and 12. Hillis with a big catch, 1st and goal at the 7. Under 7 minutes to go. False start, now Denver has 2nd and goal outside the 10. Denver has been very calm on this drive going down the field. Incomplete – now a huge 3rd down. Field goal only ties the game. Cutler steps up and guns a touchdown to Daniel Graham, 24-20 Denver with 5:35 left in the game. Cutler 19/27 for 216 yards.
Atlanta begins at the 24 with all 3 of their timeouts. White another catch for 9 yards to open the possession. Turner picks up the 1st down, now under 4 1/2 minutes to play. White again, now for 12 yards and a first down, 102 yards on the day. Closing in on 3 minutes left in the game. Jamie Winborn drops on interception that would have ended the game. A break for the Falcons, Ryan never saw him. Ryan beats the blitz on 3rd and 7 for 12 yards to Finneran. All Finneran does is make clutch 3rd down catches. A Turner run gets it down to the 2 minute warning. Atlanta sits around the 35-yard-line, looking for the touchdown to take the lead. This game has the feel that the last team with the ball could win it. Atlanta needs to score a TD first. Plenty of time for Atlanta, they need to execute right now.
Holding by Atlanta, huge penalty. Now 2nd and 20 for Atlanta, they need to get yards on this play, you don’t want 3rd and 20. This is 4 down territory though I would think. A screen pass to Snelling only gets 2 yards. 3rd and 18, Ryan needs to be clutch again. Deep to White in the endzone, but can’t haul it in. Now 4th down for Atlanta. Punt with 3 timeouts? They are going for it. White had a good chance for that one, just didn’t pull it in on the sidelines of the endzone. It doesn’t look good for Atlanta, but they looked out of it against Chicago as well. 7-3 is a huge difference from 6-4 in the NFC right now. Carolina coming to town next week in a huge game. Denver calls a timeout after seeing Atlanta’s formation. Incomplete pass – Denver takes over around midfield. Ryan 20/33, 250 yards. Game over, Denver wins.