The Denver Broncos will play their second prime-time game in as many weeks in Atlanta against the Falcons. Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ no-huddle offense is all the rage, but the performance of their defense might just be what swings the outcome of these two outstanding offenses. Here are three defensive keys for the Broncos start 2012 2-0.
Take away the run game and force Matt Ryan to throw: Seems crazy, right? Make an elite quarterback throw more? Not exactly crazy. Over the course of Ryan’s career, he is 3-13 when he throws 40 or more times. When the Falcons are unbalanced, the team does not ride well on his right arm. This is in line with what the Broncos did to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. The Broncos held the Steelers to 75 yards on the ground, made Big Ben throw 41 times and iced the game with a Tracy Porter pick-six. Do the same this week, expect similar results.
Get off the field: Last week the Broncos forced the Steelers into an absurd 19 third down situations. The only issue was that the Steelers converted an equally absurd 11 of those 19. First and second down performance was excellent for the Broncos’ defense; third down was not. The Broncos have to force the Falcons’ offense off the field with more consistency. The Falcons were 5-10 on third down conversions last week and were able to shred the Kansas City Chiefs‘ defense for 40 points. The Broncos will need to be just as stout on first and second down and keep the Falcons to under a 50% conversion rate on third down.
Force turnovers: One of many issues for the Broncos’ defense over the past few years has been the inability to force turnovers, but last Porter’s interception was as timely as it gets. Pardon the mixed-sport analogy, but it was the football equivalent of a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning. It effectively shut the door on the Steelers’ comeback. The Broncos will need to draw inspiration from Porter and go after the ball. Obviously, turnover ratio has a huge influence on the outcome of a football game. This week’s matchup is no different. Dating back to last season, the Falcons are 11-7. 8 of those wins have come when they win the turnover battle and five of their losses have come when they have lost that battle. The Broncos will put themselves in a great position to win by forcing mistakes.