ATLANTA – Dominating on both sides of the ball for the first three quarters, the Atlanta Falcons hold off a late push to defeat the Denver Broncos 34-27 for their third win of the 2020 NFL season.
Atlanta Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morrison on how it feels to get his first home win at the helm, “Oh man. You have no idea. The elation in that locker room. What it means to this city, what it means to take over this city. The Dirty Birds are back.” He continued, “You get a win at home and you get that energy, you get that juice, you never apologize for anything that went wrong in the game and you just go out there and you win football games.”
It was another improved performance for the Falcons, who have now won three of their last four games after the 0-5 start to the 2020 NFL season. If they are going to have any hope of making the playoffs, they are going to need performances like this on a weekly basis.
The Atlanta offense totaled 363-yards in the game, with a lot of that coming from a dominant first half that set them on their way towards the victory.
Matt Ryan completed 25 of his 35 passes for 284-yards and three touchdown passes. The veteran quarterback has not been the problem in the slow start to the Falcons season, but his consistent performance has helped right the ship the last four games as they try and battle back.
Ryan’s primary target was star wideout Julio Jones, who caught five of his seven targets for 51-yards and a touchdown. Julio made a great move to lose his defender on the scoring play, cutting back to the sideline to get wide-open.
The story of the game was the performance of young receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. Without star receiver Calvin Ridley, who missed the game with an injury, Atlanta turned to Zaccheaus to be the top target behind Julio Jones. The second-year receiver out of the University of Virginia stepped up in a big way, hauling in four catches for 103-yards and a touchdown. Zaccheaus had two catches of 40-yards or more, including a 50-yard catch in the first quarter that went for a touchdown. That score set the tone for Atlanta early on as they got out to a big early lead, and Zaccheaus’ development could be huge for the Falcons going forward.
Interim coach Morris spoke about Zaccheaus saying, “To see OZ go out there and play some Z for us and jump in there for Calvin [Ridley] and get an explosive [play], to see Christian Blake go out there and make plays, these are all things we know they are capable of doing for us.”
Atlanta got out to a big lead in the first half, scoring on every drive in the first half to take a 20-3 lead before kneeling out the clock to go to the locker room.
The second half saw the Falcons extend their lead to 34-13 on touchdowns from Julio Jones and running back Todd Gurley. Gurley didn’t have his biggest day in an Atlanta uniform but found the endzone when they needed him most to seal the victory.
The win moves the Atlanta Falcons to 3-5 on the 2020 NFL season. After starting the year 0-5, the Falcons have won three of their four games under interim head coach Raheem Morris. The odds of making the playoffs after an 0-5 start are slim, but with better performances now coming on a weekly basis, Atlanta might start making noise if they continue at this pace.
The Falcons have a bye week and will next travel to New Orleans to take on the NFC South Rival Saints on November 22nd.