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Falcons-Broncos preview: Is Todd Gurley poised for a big day?

It’s been a little while since Todd Gurley dominated an opponent, but his recent history indicates that could end on Sunday when he faces the Denver Broncos


It's been a little while since Todd Gurley dominated an opponent, but his recent history indicates that could end on Sunday when he faces the Denver Broncos.

Denver is currently allowing 123.4 yards per game on the ground, and Gurley enters the matchup ranked fourth in the NFL with 531 yards. He's faring even better in the touchdown department with eight on the season.


To make things even more enticing, the last time Gurley faced the Broncos – in 2018 – he racked up a career-high 208 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns. If he comes close to replicating that feat on Sunday, the Falcons have to like their chances.

That's only one piece of the puzzle, but Matt Tabeek discussed other various aspects of the game in this week’s Beek’s Bits.

Falcons to hold McKinley accountable for Twitter comments

The Falcons reportedly fined defensive end Takk McKinley an unspecified amount of money for comments he made about the organization on Twitter after the NFL's trade deadline. The comments did not sit well with interim head coach Raheem Morris, who insinuated that McKinley will not play against the Denver Broncos this weekend.

"The wrong way to go about it is definitely the way that Takk is handling it now and to pout," Morris said. "As soon as we get an opportunity to talk to him about those things and how he's handling that situation, that will be the first and foremost thing you handle first. And then you figure out, let's get him healthy as far as his groin. And then you figure out if he's even able to be on the team, if that's even possible at this point.

"We'll move forward, and we'll move forward swiftly, and we'll move forward accordingly. But, right now, the one thing I do know is he won't be able to help us for the Denver Broncos."

Julio praises former Alabama receiver and Broncos rookie Jerry Jeudy

When the Falcons and Broncos square off on Sunday, it's possible that three former Alabama wide receivers are on the field. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley were each lead receivers during their careers with the Crimson Tide, and Denver has one of its own in rookie Jerry Jeudy; all three of whom were first-round picks. In three seasons, Jones caught 179 passes for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns; Ridley bested that with 224 catches for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns in his three years, and Jeudy was just behind him with 159 receptions for 2,742 yards and 26 touchdowns.

"Amazing receiver … his ability to get in and out of routes," Jones said of Jeudy. "He has all the intangibles to be a great receiver. He's a rookie right now, he has to keep working and keep building."

A.J. Terrell proving to be a fast learner

In his rookie season, A.J. Terrell doesn’t look much like a rookie. Stepping into a starting role from Day 1, Terrell has given up some tough, contested catches, but he's also prevented any huge games from opposing receivers and is making his presence felt against the run. The Falcons are extremely pleased with what they've gotten from Terrell so far this season, and he's been a nice addition to Atlanta's defense.

"I've been around a lot of rookie cornerbacks who get put out on that island and are going to have some bumps in the road, some really rough days," Falcons defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "And it's normally a roller coaster regarding confidence and technique and there's just so many things a young cornerback has to learn. Those typical bumps in the road I've seen way less with A.J. His poise and what he's done out there is not indicative of a rookie, it's more indicative of a five, six, seven-year vet and combine that with great physical skill, he's been a huge bright spot for us."

Falcons need to be wary of Bradley Chubb, Phillip Lindsay

To get a better sense of how this matchup is being approached from the Broncos’ side, I reached out to Ryan O'Halloran of The Denver Post. O'Halloran discussed a variety of topics, including the play of Drew Lock, the recent comeback victory against the Chargers and the play of both Bradley Chubb and Phillip Lindsay.

"Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb is the player for Atlanta fans to watch," O'Halloran wrote. "He has 5 1/2 sacks in the last four games."

What to know about the Denver Broncos

Raheem Morris pointed out this week that the Falcons haven't fared so well against AFC opponents recently, and they are hoping to change that this weekend. What are the Falcons up against on Sunday when they take on the Broncos? Kelsey Conway provided a primer on this weekend’s matchup, including the quarterback Atlanta's defense will be tasked with slowing down.

"After missing two games with a shoulder injury, Drew Lock is back in the starting lineup for the Broncos," Conway writes. "Lock ranks No. 32 in passing yards despite being one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL. Lock has played in five games and has a 41.6 quarterback rating. It's worth noting Lock led Denver in their second half comeback win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 8. Lock is in his second year as the starting quarterback for the Broncos following a stellar career at Missouri. Denver selected Lock in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he won the starting job in December of his rookie season."

Matt Ryan discusses improving in the red zone

When asked for his assessment of the first half of the season and the biggest area of improvement for the offense, Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter brought up the team's performance in the red zone. Atlanta is scoring touchdowns on just 53.3 percent of its trips to the red zone this season, which puts the Falcons 27th among all NFL teams. Matt Ryan was asked this week about how to improve the team’s performance in that area.

"Touchdowns, that's the No. 1 thing," Ryan said. "Finding a way to do it. That comes with running the football well, I think we've done a good job with that. We've got to capitalize in the pass game when we get opportunities and we have to do it in practice first."

How Julio Jones unlocks the Falcons' offense

While Calvin Ridley has proven that he can be an elite receiver in the NFL, the Falcons are still at their very best with Julio Jones as the No. 1 option. Thursday night provided a very clear reminder of that fact. Without Jones in the lineup in Week 5, the Falcons struggled to move the ball through the air and couldn't mount a late comeback. With Jones back on offense, they didn't need to. While they weren't perfect, they moved the ball in chunks and dictated play. Jones commanded attention and still made big plays while freeing up space for others. It's not much more complicated than that.

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