By Justin Adams

DENVER (CBS4) – Teams in the NFL are often defined by the “next man up” philosophy, but the Denver Broncos couldn’t overcome the loss of their top two cornerbacks in the 34-27 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

AJ Bouye was out with a concussion and Bryce Callahan missed the game with an ankle injury. In their place was third-year cornerback Davontae Harris, rookie Michael Ojmeudia and rookie Essang Bassey was used as the “nickel” or third cornerback.

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ATLANTA, GEORGIA – NOVEMBER 08: Davontae Harris #27 of the Denver Broncos is called for pass interference against Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Falcons took advantage of the Broncos young corners scoring on all four of their possessions in the first half. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 18 of his 23 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns.

The Broncos pass defense struggled the most on third downs as Atlanta converted on six-of-eight third down tries in the first half. Five of those were passes aimed at Harris, Ojmeudia or Bassey.

“Tough day at the office, but real ones know what’s on the other side of adversity,” Davontae Harris said on Twitter.

The two touchdown passes in the opening half were on third down as Ryan connected with Olamide Zaccheaus on a 51-yard touchdown and Brandon Powell on a 9-yard score.

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“It was a struggle, obviously I never did find the right combination there in the first half in particular,” Vic Fangio said after the game. “We had some good pressures, but when we weren’t pressuring and rushing with four to try and help the secondary our pass rush wasn’t good enough.”

One bright spot in the loss was the play of Bassey who had four tackles, including two tackles for a loss.

“I thought he played well. We listed him a few times and he made some good plays in that area. He got some tackles for losses. We like Bassey. He’s a good, young football player who’s learning. He’s got the right attitude and disposition and he approaches his job the right way. We’re happy to have him,” Fangio said on Monday.

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The Broncos (3-5) hope to rebound against the Las Vegas Raiders (5-3) on Sunday at 2:05 p.m.

Justin Adams