Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) fends off a tackle from Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson (23) during the first half of an NFL football game

Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) fends off a tackle from Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson (23) during the first half of an NFL football game

Falcons pick apart Broncos

Atlanta 27 Denver 21 ATLANTA — Peyton Manning kept throwing up wobbly passes.

Atlanta 27 Denver 21

ATLANTA — Peyton Manning kept throwing up wobbly passes.

The Atlanta Falcons kept picking them off.

Taking advantage of a stunning three interceptions in the first quarter, Matt Ryan and the Falcons built a big lead and held on for a 27-21 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday night, an erratic effort by Manning that showed his comeback in the Mile High City is still a work in progress.

Ryan threw the 100th touchdown pass of his career, Roddy White had 102 yards receiving and the Falcons (2-0) made a 20-0 lead stand up, if just barely.

Willis McGahee scored on two 2-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to give the Broncos (1-1) late hope. But, on third down, Ryan connected with Julio Jones on a 6-yard pass that gave Atlanta a crucial first down with less than 2 minutes to go.

They managed to run out the clock from there.

For Manning and the Broncos, it’s back to the drawing board.

Even though his velocity is supposed to be nearly the same as it was before four neck surgeries and missing his entire final season in Indianapolis, Manning threw a number of passes that seemed to just hang in the air long enough for the Falcons to step in front of them.

Other times, it looked as though he had to put everything he had on the ball to get it where he wanted, even if it wasn’t necessarily a deep route.

He finished 24 of 37 for 241 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas just before halftime.

The only other time Manning was picked off three times in the opening quarter was with the Colts in a 2007 game at San Diego.

Ryan was much more efficient than the four-time MVP, completing 24 of 36 for 219 yards.

He hooked up with Tony Gonzalez for a 1-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, then went to White on a 4-yard score in the third period.

Michael Turner scored Atlanta’s first TD on a 1-yard run, the play set up by the first of Manning’s picks. Matt Bryant kicked two field goals for the Falcons.

McGahee finished with 113 yards on 22 carries.

The Falcons appeared to be solidly in control heading to the fourth quarter, up 27-7 after Ryan hooked up with White on consecutive passes of 21 and 20 yards, then went to him again for the touchdown.

The Broncos at least made a game of it. Manning completed 7 of 11 for 89 yards in the final period, but two sacks helped stifle the comeback.

A week after he won his Denver debut with a home victory over Pittsburgh, the Broncos had turnovers on four on their first five possessions. It was an uncharacteristic prime time start for Manning, who began the night with an 11-3 career record on Mondays.

On the game’s third play from scrimmage, he threw into triple coverage to Jacob Tamme, but Falcons strong safety William Moore stepped in front of the tight end for an interception.

Moore ran down the left sideline 33 yards before Orlando Franklin tackled him at the 1.

Turner ran twice over the left side of the line before jumping over a stack of Atlanta and Denver linemen to put the ball over the goal line for a 7-0 lead with 13:20 left in the first quarter. That summed up Atlanta’s problems running the ball — Turner totalled only 42 yards on 17 carries.

The Broncos ran two plays before Manning faked a play-action handoff and threw down the right seam to Eric Decker. This time, free safety Thomas DeCoud picked him off and returned it 15 yards.

After Jones dropped what would have been a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ryan in the left corner of the end zone, Bryant followed with a 37-yard field goal to make it 10-0.

Manning’s third pick went to Robert McClain, a reserve cornerback who was taking his first snap because Asante Samuel injured his neck on the previous play.

On Sunday, Manning’s younger brother, Eli, threw three interceptions in the first half. But he rallied the New York Giants to a 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

No such luck for big brother.

Atlanta nickel cornerback Christopher Owens left the game in the opening quarter with a head injury and did not return, further depleting a secondary that already lost Brent Grimes to a season-ending injury in Week 1.

Samuel returned to the field on Denver’s next possession, whiffing on Willis McGahee’s 31-yard run, but stopping Tamme 1 yard short of a first down to force a punt two snaps later.

On the next-to-last snap of the first quarter, Atlanta linebacker Stephen Nicholas forced a fumble by Knowshon Moreno near the Denver sideline and Sean Weatherspoon recovered for Atlanta.

A scrum began after the Falcons were awarded the ball.

Denver coach John Fox was on the field trying to restore order as players from both teams shoved each other. As Samuel was walking away, Broncos guard Zane Beadles ran into him and knocked him down. Samuel quickly jumped up, and Atlanta defensive end Ray Edwards appeared to throw a punch at a Denver player.

No one was ejected.

After Moreno’s fumble, the Falcons ran 10 plays before Bryant kicked a 42-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead.

Then, Ryan found Gonzalez all alone in the end zone. The tight end who has caught the second-most passes in NFL history was left wide open in the back of the end zone on a crossing route. His quarterback froze the Broncos defence with a nifty play fake before delivering the pass that made it 20-0, punctuated by Gonzalez’s dunk over the goal posts.

The Broncos finally got on the board with 6 seconds left in the half, though it took the replacement officials a second look to get it right. They initially ruled Thomas had been pushed out of bounds without getting both feet down. The replay clearly showed otherwise, Fox challenged the call, and the call was reversed in Denver’s favour.

Another time, the replacements had to huddle just to make sure they knew where to place the ball after a defensive holding penalty on Denver’s Champ Bailey.

The Falcons snapped a six-game losing streak on Mondays, including 0-3 under coach Mike Smith. Their last Monday win came over New Orleans on Dec. 12, 2005.

———

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read