Much of the chatter on social media following the Denver Broncos’ 23-16 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons was about how Denver effectively failed in all three phases of the game. Brandon McManus and Riley Dixon might disagree based on their performances, but that’s of little consolation. In fact, based on the chatter during the game, most observers would say Denver failed in a fourth phase as well: Coaching.

From the first series of the game, Denver seemed to be outsmarted and unable to adjust to a Falcons game plan that attacked their every weakness.

On defense, Denver struggled to stop the run early, which set up several big-play opportunities for the Falcons. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (son of former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan) used those openings to exploit another Denver weakness: Linebackers in pass coverage. Because Wade Phillips was devoting so many men downfield to stopping Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, running back Tevin Coleman broke loose for receptions of 48, 31 (TD) and 49 yards. Shanahan found a way to beat the Broncos and he went back to it time and again. With a fourth reception for four yards in the second quarter, Coleman collected a pass in each of the four quarters and proved to be the biggest difference in that matchup.

On offense, Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison kept a tight leash on rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch early by trying to establish the run. As they have done in the past two games, Denver struggled to move the ball on the ground and left their young quarterback in undesirable passing situations. Made worse is the fact that the right side of the offensive line is without two key components, right tackle Donald Stephenson and tight end Virgil Green. Unwilling to give backup right tackle Ty Sambrailo consistent help, the Broncos coaching staff hung their young quarterback out to dry – especially in the second half – where Atlanta racked up four of its six sacks on the day. Even after replacing Sambrailo with Michael Schofield, no additional help came on the right side and Vic Beasley, who totaled just four career sacks coming into the game, left Denver with an additional 3.5 to his name. The coaching staff’s inability to adjust the game plan and station another body on that side of the line to help Sambrailo and Schofield was reminiscent of last year’s loss at home to Oakland when Khalil Mack racked up five sacks in one half. In total Denver amassed 267 yards of offense, but only 145 of them came before Denver trailed by three scores.

The final straw for several observers came when there was an apparent lack of urgency late in the game as the Broncos tried to mount what would have been an epic comeback. Trailing 23-6, the Broncos had the ball with 8:20 on the clock needing three scores to win. Paxton Lynch would indeed drive the team 78 yards for a touchdown, but the drive consumed 5:42 and included numerous play calls from the huddle. Denver forced a turnover on downs that consumed just 42 seconds on the ensuing possession, but still needed 10 points in under 2:00 minutes at that point. That might be plenty of time for an Aaron Rodgers, but for a rookie like Paxton Lynch, it had many folks scratching their head why Denver didn’t press the no-huddle button a little earlier in the quarter.

Here’s what some of the team at MHS and some of our favorite follows on social media had to say about the role coaching played in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons…