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Falcons hand Broncos their first loss

DENVER -- The Atlanta Falcons extended their run of success by leaning on their running backs. Quarterback Matt Ryan led five scoring drives against the Broncos' vaunted defense, including two that running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman ...

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Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) runs the ball for a touchdown after a pass reception defended by Denver Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) during the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER -- The Atlanta Falcons extended their run of success by leaning on their running backs.

 

Quarterback Matt Ryan led five scoring drives against the Broncos' vaunted defense, including two that running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman finished with touchdowns as the Falcons won their fourth straight by beating Denver 23-16 Sunday.

 

"We felt our best matchup was getting our backs out of the backfield," Ryan said. "There's not many guys in this league that can run the football, pass protect, motion out and run routes like wide receivers and we've got two of them. So we're really fortunate and lucky to have them. They did a great job today."

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Freeman had three catches for 35 yards to go with 88 yards rushing, including a 1-yard scoring run.

 

"We can run routes like a receiver, block like a big back," Freeman said. "We can make people miss. We can run people over, and we can catch out of the backfield. I think that's why we're so good and we give the offense a spark."

 

Coleman finished with four catches for 132 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown catch.

"They spread us out," said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who was admitted to a local hospital as a precautionary measure about an hour after the game because of flu-like symptoms. "For their backs to get own the field the way they did is going to take some time. You can't ask (the team's linebackers) to hold up that long. It was a very good job on their art."

 

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Containing the Falcons' running backs wasn't the only problem for the Broncos. Their offense struggled to find its rhythm in the absence of injured quarterback Trevor Siemian.

 

Rookie Paxton Lynch, making his first career start with Siemian sidelined due to a left shoulder injury, completed 23 of 35 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception and was constantly harried by linebacker Vic Beasley Jr., who had 3 1/2 sacks.

 

"I think I was well-prepared," Lynch said. "But overall as a team we didn't play as well as we should have to win the game, and we didn't."

 

Atlanta's defense, which allowed an average of 31 points in four previous games, kept theBroncos out of the end zone until Demaryius Thomas caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Lynch with 2:38 remaining.

 

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The Falcons (4-1) recovered Denver's subsequent onside-kick attempt. Denver (4-1) got the ball back and little time to work but managed a third field goal from Brandon McManus, from 45 yards.

 

One more Broncos onside kick ended in the Falcons' hands, and Ryan took a knee to run out the last few seconds.

 

"Obviously, this is a tough place to play against a very good football team," Ryan said. "I thought we competed in all three phases today really well. Our defense stepped up and played great. The running backs did an awesome job as well. I was proud of the entire team effort."

 

McManus also kicked field goals of 35 and 45 yards for Denver, which had a nine-game winning streak dating to last season snapped.

 

Ryan threw for one touchdown, Freeman had a 1-yard touchdown run, and Matt Bryant finished three other Atlanta drives with field goals.

 

Up by 10 at the half, the Falcons stretched their lead to 20-3 on Coleman's 31-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Safety Ricardo Allen got Atlanta's drive going by intercepting Lynch.

 

The Falcons took a 13-3 halftime lead, putting Denver's defense on its heels with a game-opening touchdown drive ending in Freeman's short scoring run on fourth down. Coleman got the Falcons within striking distance, breaking free along the left sideline for a 49-yard reception to the 15-yard line.

 

Denver's defense recovered to twice stop Atlanta drives short of the end zone, leading to field goals of 46 and 33 yards by Bryant.

 

The Broncos' only score of the first half came on a 35-yard field goal by McManus after Lynch overthrew Emmanuel Sanders in the end zone on third down.

 

The field goal kept alive the Broncos' scoring streak for a 378th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the league.

 

Ryan completed 15 of 28 passes for 267 yards. Freeman ran 23 times for 88 yards.

 

Sanders caught seven passes for 80 yards.

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