In a very uncharacteristic manner, the Denver Broncos were out-schemed on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, the Atlanta Falcons offense read the Broncos defense like a book.

“They had every answer for us,” safety Darien Stewart said after the 23-16 loss to the Falcons on Sunday.

After giving up an average of only 16 points per game through the first four games, the Broncos gave up 23 points to the Falcons. But the point total wasn’t the concerning part; the fact that the Broncos were surprised was.

“[The Falcons game plan] just caught us off guard,” inside linebacker Corey Nelson said. “They schemed us well, and we weren’t prepared for it in the beginning.”

The Broncos defense, lead by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, has had problems stopping teams in the first quarter. However, through the first four games, the defense has made terrific in-game adjustments that have then shut down opposing offenses the rest of the game. That did not happen on Sunday.

“We didn’t prepare for it, we should have anticipated it, but we didn’t. It hurt us in the end; we made adjustments late, but by that time it was too late,” Nelson said. “They just had a great game plan. They schemed well, and they got us. That’s the only thing to it.”

The Broncos gave up 372 total yards of offense, with 286 of those yards coming from the Falcons two running backs — Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. As the game went on, it became apparent that the Broncos needed to make changes to the way they defended Freeman and Coleman, but those changes never happened.

“I thought we could have helped more [on the running backs],” Stewart said. “I thought they did a good job just scheming us up on certain stuff. They did a great job, and they knew when they had matchups.”

Even though Stewart knew there were mismatches on the field, no in-game adjustments were made. Although the Broncos have had excellent game plans through the first quarter of the season, it does raise some concern that the Broncos were caught so off guard by the Falcons on Sunday.