Next-Day Notebook: Demaryius Thomas reaches key mark

A copycat league

After Falcons running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman combined for seven receptions, 167 yards and one touchdown, the Broncos said they know other teams will try to follow the same blueprint.

“They were able to come out on top a little bit,” Ray said. “We’ve got to correct that [and] see what we can do to shut that down. Now teams are definitely going to try that. This is a copycat league, but we’ll be all right.”

But even after a performance in which linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis struggled to stick with the speedy Atlanta backs, Ray and the rest of the Broncos’ defense are not worried about finding answers moving forward.

“It’s not concerning,” Ray said. “We’re still the best defense in the league. That confidence isn’t going anywhere. We’ve just got to fix little problems. You’re not going to be perfect all the time. It doesn’t work like that.”

Special success

The Broncos’ special teams performance on Sunday was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise uninspiring afternoon.

Punter Riley Dixon continued to show improvement as he averaged 43.8 net yards per punt on six kicks. Two of the six were downed inside the 20, and he could have had two more if not for a penalty and a misjudgment by a gunner when trying to down a punt. Dixon’s long of 62 yards helped flip the field for the Broncos’ defense.

Kicker Brandon McManus also turned in a strong performance as he went 3-of-3 with kicks of 35, 45 and 46 yards. He was perfect on his lone extra point of the day. On a late onside kick attempt, he played a good ball that was recovered by the Broncos. An offside penalty would force McManus to rekick and the Falcons recovered.

But the Broncos didn’t play perfectly in all phases of special teams. Returner Cody Latimer struggled to decide when to take touchbacks on kickoff return opportunities. Latimer chose to return three of Atlanta’s kickoffs, but he averaged just 21.7 yards per return and didn’t reach the 25-yard line on any of the three chances.

Sweet No. 50

Demaryius Thomas’ fourth-quarter touchdown was key as the Broncos tried to fight back from a double-digit deficit against the Falcons. But it also signified an important moment for Thomas’ career.

Thomas became just the third player in Broncos history to reach the 50 career touchdown mark. Rod Smith (68) and Shannon Sharpe (55) are the only other players to reach that number.

Thomas has now scored a touchdown in three straight games.

Odds and ends

  • The Broncos struggled on first down against the Falcons. On offense, the Broncos threw 18 times on first down and averaged just 3.7 yards per play. The lack of success set up long second downs that caused issues for the Broncos’ offense. By contrast, the Falcons threw the football on 11 of their 28 first down plays. They averaged 15.2 yards per play on those attempts and racked up 239 yards on all first down plays for an average of 8.5 yards. Compare that to the 88 yards the Broncos gained on first down for average of 3.5 yards per play.
  • The Broncos had trailed for 60:54 all season coming into Sunday’s game. Against the Falcons, the Broncos trailed for 56:18.
  • Atlanta’s starting field position was better than Denver’s by nearly eight yards. The Falcons took over at their own 33-yard line, while the Broncos started at their own 25.

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