Posted September 18, 2012

Peyton Manning endures tough night thanks to a dangerous Falcons team

Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning threw three first-quarter INTs for just the second time in his 14-year career. (John Bazemore/AP)

If last week was the welcome back celebration for Peyton Manning, then Monday night was a little reminder of just how long he’s been away. Playing on the road for the first time since taking the Colts to Oakland on Dec. 26, 2010, Manning endured a nightmare opening quarter.

His second pass of the game: High, wobbly and intercepted by William Moore down the middle.

His fourth pass: Underthrown, wobbly and intercepted by Thomas DeCoud down the middle.

And pass No. 8: Well, you get the idea.

Robert McClain jumped that route to give Manning three picks on the night. Knowshon Moreno then put the ball on the turf later in the first quarter, giving the Broncos a staggering four turnovers in the first 15 minutes.

“It was a disappointing start,” Manning said. “Anytime you come on the road and throw three interceptions in the first quarter, you put your team in a hole, put your defense in a hole.”

Atlanta failed to take total advantage of those errors but still built a 10-0 lead after one quarter and a 20-0 edge with 4:39 left in the second. Manning finally found a little groove in the final stanza, leading a pair of touchdown drives to give his Broncos a shot. But it turned out to be too little, too late, as Atlanta held on for a 27-21 win.

So, the Broncos are 1-1, and we all may have jumped the gun by proclaiming Peyton back and Denver a Super Bowl threat after Week 1.

But what about the Falcons?

A quick glance at the NFL standings shows that 20 of the league’s 32 teams now sit at 1-1. Another six are 0-2 to start the year, including Atlanta’s NFC South rival, New Orleans. Very few teams have come out of the gate and established themselves as legitimate contenders.

Atlanta is one that has.

The Falcons went on the road in Week 1 and clobbered the Chiefs, then turned in a brilliant defensive game plan early to fluster Manning on Monday night. Matt Ryan did not repeat his 299-yard, three-TD performance from last Sunday, but if a 67 percent completion rate, two touchdowns and a 101.5 QB rating counts as an average outing, then it’s hard to imagine many teams shutting Atlanta down.

“I think it’s … we’re 2-0, we’ve got a long road ahead of us, a lot of tough games ahead of us,” Ryan told the NFL Network after the game when asked how important this win was. “But we’ll enjoy it tonight and then get ready for San Diego.”

Give credit to Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who entered Monday with a 1-6 career record vs. Manning but drew up an intelligent game plan. Knowing that Manning is still trying to get his arm strength back, Nolan dropped his safeties early and dared Manning to beat them.

He couldn’t. And the Falcons took advantage.

“Our defense did a great job,” Ryan said. “The first quarter was unbelievable to get some of those turnovers and give our offense some field position.”

Said Atlanta coach Mike Smith: “I’m really proud of the performance we turned in tonight, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Those four turnovers were huge, and we were able to provide a lot of pressure on the quarterback.”

The fourth quarter, in which Denver ran off 14 unanswered points and forced Atlanta to a 3rd-and-5 just before the two-minute warning, will give the Falcons plenty to work on heading into Week 3. Still, with the Saints off to a slow start, the door is wide open for the Falcons to take control of the NFC South.

For Manning and his Broncos, meanwhile, there’s no doubt that these early games are being used to establish a new identity and, in Manning’s case, to kick off some of the rust. He may not be quite as locked in as he showed in Week 1 — he’s probably not quite as off-kilter as he looked early in Atlanta, either.

In his postgame press conference, Manning quickly shot down the notion that his three interceptions were caused by lingering effects from the neck injury that sidelined him last season, but even if his health is not a concern, the decision-making and old Manning form were not there early Monday.

“Obviously, I’d like to have all three of them back,” Manning said. “Just three bad decisions, and I’m sure when I see the film, I’ll see somebody open short, underneath on a check down.

“But I’ll learn from it, our team will learn from it.”

Two weeks, no matter how good or bad they go, do not a season make. Ryan knows that — his Falcons still have to get better, especially on the ground, if they want to take the next step this season.

Manning knows it, too. He never pretended that he would be able to step back onto the field and dominate like he used to, nor should anyone expect him to. He’ll have a few outstanding games, as he did in the Broncos’ win over the Steelers. He may also endure a few more clunkers like Monday night.

Which end of the spectrum he lives on more consistently will determine how this Denver season plays out.

36 comments
larrybradford
larrybradford

Manning got off to a bad start, but settled down. At the end of the game the Falcons were doing everything they could to keep the ball out of his hot hand. Had he been able to get the ball one more time it could have been a Falcon loss by one point. He certainly got on track the the last half.  Falcons defense last night was pretty interesting and all over the place. This could be a new trend in defense.  Good game.....

jack.mcnulty
jack.mcnulty

I think Manniing deserved the MVP last year, when the colts could barely find the field without him, Not alot of guys are worth at least 10 wins a year. But... He's older, with a year of recovery from neck surgery, playing at high altitude, with new coaches, and new players. As much as Elway wants a classic quarterback to lead the Broncos, it may have been a mistake to can Tebow for Manning. If Denver loses a few more stinkers like this, will they be looking to draft Barkley from USC? Tebow brought Crazy excitement and rabid fans. Just from a monetary standpoint keeping Tebow would have been a good idea. Not only that, but the Broncos got so much exposure last year. It was nearly impossible to turn on EPSN without a segment on Tebow and the Broncos. I was not a Tebow fan until last year, when he kept winning in spite of every talking head hoping and praying for him to crash and burn. This year, I imagine the broncos will be reported on how everyone, myself included, pulling for Peyton to magically turn Denver into a legitimate contender, before he leaves football. 

Curtis1
Curtis1

The talk of Denver being Super Bowl contenders was premature . . . but why are we so high on the Falcons?  They beat a Chiefs team that is obviously terrible, plus they were short-handed on defense.  Then, despite 4 turnovers in the first quarter and a 20-0 lead, they're sweating the last 5 minutes at home?  They're good, and they'll win the division in a year when it's down, but Super Bowl talk for them is just as premature as it was for Denver last week.

francisco.lacey
francisco.lacey

Broncos OC needs to draw up a game plan that mixes short passes under 20yds with the running game, screens, etc...  The arm strength is simply not there and may never return. 

hollyw0Od1
hollyw0Od1

Legit Super Bowl contenders. In week two. lol

kessler1066
kessler1066

Clearly his arm isn't well. It's not rust.

SkipperSam
SkipperSam

What does the Denver's all knowing vice president for football operations have to say ?

 

Quick someone name 5 other NFL "Vice Presidents for football operations 

DeanCaudill
DeanCaudill

Peyton still has to get his "football legs" under him, and he will.  This is kinda like Peyton's first years with the Colts.  This won't take as long, though.  And when he finds his comfort zone, watch out.

bross1221
bross1221

Manning will have a good season.  One has to consider he is in a new offense, around new personnel.  @Gone The Falcons have been contenders consistently for the the last few years.  Granted, they have only played the Chiefs and Broncos.  I believe the Falcons will be playoff contenders, barring injury at key positions.  The same goes for the Houston Texans.

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

"... we all may have jumped the gun by proclaiming Peyton back." Thank you. Now let's hear a little crow eating by the foolish announcers who were gushing over Peyton pre-game while totally ignoring Matt Ryan and the Falcons.... especially Tom Jackson who unabashedly and emotionally "voted" with his heart instead of his head.

Gone
Gone

Who is this goof writer?. Atlanta beats the mighty Chiefs and Denver and he has them coming out as legitimate contenders???.

jax4444
jax4444

I agree with Spuss44.

And to not to be Tebow fan, means you know little about being an athlete. 

mikeefinance
mikeefinance

Just play "Denver" at home this week. Houston had two previous games which were blown out, the third game will be a LOSS!!!!!

spus44
spus44

Last year they made such a fuss about the balls that Tebow threw, being wobbly and his inability to throw a proper spiral. Did you notice the throws tonight from Peyton? There wasn't a single spiral I can recall. They were all wobbly and weak.

John64
John64

 @jack.mcnulty MVP stands for Most Valuable PLAYER. You're not a player if you don't PLAY. Hey, maybe they should've given the MVP to Favre since the Vikings sucked, or to Marino every year since the Dolphins suck... smh

SkipperSam
SkipperSam

 @jack.mcnulty Elway had no clue on how to use Tim Tebow. All Elway does is mug for the camaras

He is not the Coach and he is not the General Manager. He is the Vice President of Football Operations

Denver is the only team who would hire him.

What happened to Denver's Head Coach two years ago ?

Elway wants the spotlight on himself.

pmk1790
pmk1790

That was a real bad Colts team last year all around.... Even with a healthy Manning they would have been lucky to go 8-8 I think..

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @Curtis1 What makes Super Bowl talk about any team premature, especially two teams that were in the playoffs last year?   If you can qualify for the post season, then you are a Super Bowl caliber team, and doing some speculating is not premature, but part of the game.

SkipperSam
SkipperSam

 @francisco.lacey They could no do that for Tebow ?

Denver's all knowing Vice President for football operations should have thought of this or stuck to selling used cars !

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @hollyw0Od1 Why can't a team be a legitimate Super Bowl contender in week two?

pmk1790
pmk1790

I think a little too much was put into last weeks game where Payton played well but not great against a diminished Steeler defense.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @Gone Versus an illegitimate contender?   Atlanta has been a playoff team three of the past four years, and has a great opportunity to be there again this year.   The Falcons are a good team.  This makes them a contender. 

Conman550
Conman550

 @Gone probably the same guy that declared the Broncos Super bowl contenders and Manning an MVP contender??

SkipperSam
SkipperSam

 @jax4444 Ya just have to wonder who was Tebow playing against when he won 2 Collage National Championships and the Heisman trophy ?

johnbarnardchmm
johnbarnardchmm

 @spus44 OK, spus -- so who would you rather have under center?  Peyton had a bad night due to the scheme.  Tebow got crushed and mauled by the Pats last year in the playoffs -- outschemed by Belicheck.  My hat's off to Nolan for a superior game plan that flummoxed Peyton.  I'd still rather have Peyton on my team than Tebow.  Wouldn't you agree?

larrybradford
larrybradford

 @SkipperSam.... Oh and you know more about football than Elway.  what  a  Pompus  A X X .......

spus44
spus44

 @johnbarnardchmm I am a Tebow man through and through. I really believe Peyton is done. His arm strength is simply not there. He looked good last week, and I am sure he will look good again this season, but I do not believe he has more than 8 wins in him. They spent too much money on damaged goods. Tebow is a project. With the right offense around him (maybe even another qb in the backfield) he could change the way the NFL offense is run. Peyton is a great guy, solid character, all that... he's just banged up and getting old. I would side with the young guy, the one who gives you hope for the future. If Peyton is disappointing this year, where do you go from here?

 

spus44
spus44

 @wolfesburg He threw more ducks than spirals. I will stand by that comment.

wolfesburg
wolfesburg

 @@spus44  No arm strength? Did you watch the game?  He rifled a 30 yard pass at Decker that was as strong a throw as could come from Tebow, but it hit Decker in the hands instead of sailing 20 yards overhead.  Atlanta played a great game and according the article Denver played a horrible game, and they only lost by 6?  Atlanta is a great team and will be in the playoffs, so for Denver to only play a half game and stay within a score is a credit to the team.  

 

rrrlas
rrrlas

The news on Tebow is that he is one and done with the Jets so perhaps you can talk Denver into reaquiring...of course thus far he has done nothing with the Jets. Peyton will eventually get there. He has been honest since day 1 in advising that he is not there yet.

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