Final

Broncos 24

(6-4, 3-2 away)

Falcons 20

(6-4, 4-1 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, November 16, 2008

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 7 0 7 1024
ATL 3 10 0 720

Top Performers

Passing: M. Ryan (ATL) - 250 YDS, 1 INT

Rushing: M. Turner (ATL) - 25 CAR, 81 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: R. White (ATL) - 5 REC, 102 YDS

Injury-hit Broncos break out tricks to defeat Falcons

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The Denver Broncos have come up with all sorts of ways to deal with their injuries, from starting a player on both sides of the line to relying on a guy with plenty of baggage.

It's working out just fine.

Jay Cutler threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Graham with 5 1/2 minutes remaining, the Denver defense held off Matt Ryan's last-gasp drive and the gritty Broncos rallied for a 24-20 victory Sunday, handing the Falcons their first loss of the season at home.

Fast Facts

• Daniel Graham's fourth touchdown in the last five games proved the difference, helping the Broncos hand the Falcons their first home loss of the season (4-0 entering).

• Denver has won four straight games against NFC opponents.

• Jay Cutler passed for 216 yards, one touchdown and zero picks. It was just the third game this season he hasn't thrown an interception.

• The Broncos are 9-0 in Cutler's career when he has a 100.0-plus passer rating (106.4 on Sunday).

-- ESPN research

• Rapid Reaction

"We made some big strides," said coach Mike Shanahan, whose team won its second straight, both on the road. "Normally, you go the other direction when you have your starters out."

The first-place Broncos (6-4) played without star cornerback Champ Bailey and all three of their projected starters at linebacker. Spencer Larsen started at both middle linebacker and fullback, the first player in team history to pull off that double.

On offense, Denver has lost five tailbacks, four of them for the season. Shanahan divvied up the carries among three players including Tatum Bell, signed a few days earlier after an ugly departure from Detroit when he was accused of stealing luggage from a teammate.

"It feels pretty good to have guys step up that have really not played in the National Football League," Shanahan said.

The Falcons (6-4) were feeling pretty good about themselves. They had won four of their last five and were 4-0 at the Georgia Dome, emerging as one of the league's biggest surprises in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

Things looked good for the home team when Michael Turner scored on a 28-yard run to put Atlanta ahead 20-17 with just under 11 minutes left.

But the Broncos came storming back. Cutler accounted for more than half the distance on the 10-play, 83-yard drive when he hooked up with Brandon Marshall for a 47-yard pass after the big receiver broke away from Chris Houston.

"It wasn't the first read. It wasn't the second read," Cutler said. "He got behind everyone, and I just threw it up and he made the catch."

On third-and-goal at the Atlanta 9, Cutler scrambled to his right and spotted Graham for the winning score.

"It was a busted play," the quarterback said. "I got a little pressure and had to roll out. Daniel did a great job of finding a hole."

Coming off a 447-yard effort against Cleveland, Cutler completed 19 of 27 passes for 216 yards. Peyton Hillis, P.J. Pope and Bell combined for 113 yards rushing on 21 carries.

"We thought it was going to be more of a passing game," Falcons defensive end Jamaal Anderson said. "They came in and wanted to establish their running game."

The Denver defense loaded up on the line and held Turner to 81 yards on 25 carries. Ryan finally showed his age at bit, throwing his first interception at home, and his final bid at rallying the Falcons slipped through the hands of top receiver Roddy White in the right corner of the end zone.

Denver Broncos Atlanta Falcons

NFL.com Video

Watch highlights from the Denver Broncos 24-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Ryan completed 20 of 33 for 250 yards, and White had five catches for 102 yards -- his fifth 100-yard game of the season. But he couldn't pull in the one that really mattered.

"I have to go out there and make those plays," White said. "I feel responsible for the loss today."

Ryan wasn't thrilled with his effort, either. On the final drive, he threw a pass that should've been picked off by Jamie Winborn and returned for a touchdown, but the linebacker couldn't hang on.

"I wish I could've had a couple throws back," Ryan said. "There were some good plays, just not enough to get the win."

Turner had a pair of touchdowns, also scoring from the 9 to give Atlanta a 13-7 lead at halftime. Jason Elam, kicking against the team that he played for the last 15 seasons, booted field goals of 46 and 36 yards for the Falcons.

But the Broncos jumped on Atlanta after halftime. Denver took the kickoff and went 77 yards in 11 plays. Cutler completed four passes for 42 yards, Hillis ripped off a 12-yard run and Pope burst up the middle for a 15-yard gain. Finally, Hillis took it in from the 2 to put the Broncos ahead.

After Ryan was picked off by Dre Bly, Denver ripped off another big drive. Atlanta's defense finally held at the goal line, forcing Denver to settle for Matt Prater's 20-yard field goal that pushed the lead to 17-13.

Game notes


Prater, who started the 2007 season as Atlanta's kicker but was cut after only two games, missed a 49-yard attempt in the second quarter. He's made all five of his tries from at least 50 yards, but dropped to 12-of-16 on the closer ones. ... At halftime, the Falcons honored their 1998 Super Bowl team, including Jamal Anderson, who trotted on the field doing the "Dirty Bird" dance that became the team's trademark.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
DEN
ATL
1st Downs1920
Passing 1st downs
1113
Rushing 1st downs
76
1st downs from penalties
11
3rd down efficiency
7-1211-18
4th down efficiency
0-00-1
Total Plays5368
Total Yards332364
Yards per play6.35.4
Total Drives98
Passing208250
Comp-Att
19-2720-33
Yards per pass
7.47.6
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks-Yards Lost
1-80-0
Rushing124114
Rushing Attempts
2535
Yards per rush
5.03.3
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-41-2
Penalties6-365-36
Turnovers01
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
01
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession26:1833:42

Passing Leaders

DENC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Cutler19/272168.0101-8
ATLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Ryan20/332507.6010-0

Rushing Leaders

DENCARYDSAVGTDLG
Hillis10444.4212
Pope4358.8015
ATLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Turner25813.2228
Ryan5183.609

Receiving Leaders

DENRECYDSAVGTDLG
Marshall68914.8047
Royal4348.5018
ATLRECYDSAVGTDLG
White510220.4037
Jenkins55511.0015

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERDENATL
denTD9:31Peyton Hillis 7 Yard Run (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 6 yds, 1:00
70
atlFG2:31Jason Elam 46 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 12 plays, 41 yds, 7:00
73
SECOND QUARTERDENATL
atlFG12:37Jason Elam 36 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 54 yds, 2:42
76
atlTD7:40Michael Turner 9 Yard Run (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 61 yds, 3:53
713
THIRD QUARTERDENATL
denTD10:04Peyton Hillis 2 Yard Run (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 77 yds, 5:01
1413
FOURTH QUARTERDENATL
denFG15:00Matt Prater 20 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 60 yds, 4:07
1713
atlTD10:49Michael Turner 28 Yard Run (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 77 yds, 4:15
1720
denTD5:42Daniel Graham 9 Yard Pass From Jay Cutler (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 83 yds, 5:06
2420