DENVER (The Sports Xchange) – The following is The Sports Xchange’s report card from the Broncos’ 23-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — QB Paxton Lynch got a glimpse of what was to come when the Falcons stacked the box to show rush on his first third-down pass, then emptied the interior and had no one over the A-gaps on his second third-down play Sunday. The varied looks kept him off-balance, and RT Ty Sambrailo’s inability to contain OLB Vic Beasley on the outside led to the disintegration of the pocket, leaving Lynch skittish. Lynch missed some open receivers, and he overthrew WR Emmanuel Sanders on what could have been a touchdown reception. A late flurry of completions against a Falcons defense laying back to take away the big play burnished Lynch’s statistical line, but in the end, it was a day typical of a rookie quarterback.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-plus — Once again, the Broncos struggled to run the ball — but this time it was against one of the league’s worst rush defenses. Denver averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and failed to convert a pair of third-and-1 situations in the second quarter. The inability to get tough yardage on a consistent basis has been a problem throughout the season.

PASS DEFENSE: C — LBs Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis struggled to cover Falcons RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and that rendered moot the solid work of the Broncos’ pass rush and the lockdown play of CBs Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib on WRs Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Falcons QB Matt Ryan wasn’t as prolific as he was in previous weeks, but what he did was enough.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus — Freeman and Coleman didn’t just beat the Broncos downfield, they diced them on the ground, steadily chopping away at the Broncos’ defense to combine for 119 yards on 29 carries and a fourth-and-goal touchdown run in the first quarter. Atlanta finished with just 3.8 yards per carry but moved the chains on 25 percent of their non-kneel-down handoffs.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Brandon McManus was perfect on his placekicks, but poor decisions and execution on returns hamstrung the Broncos and left them losing the field-position battle. Cody Latimer elected to return three kickoffs from the Denver end zone, and he didn’t get any farther upfield than the Denver 22, costing the Broncos 18 yards of field position. A failure to field a bouncing punt by Jordan Norwood also forced the Broncos to start at their 1-yard line in the third quarter; a play later, Lynch was intercepted.

COACHING: C — Slow starts continue to be a problem for the Broncos, as who fell behind early at some point in four of their first five games — including double-digit halftime deficits against the Panthers and Falcons. Against Atlanta, the deficit was too much to overcome.


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