The Atlanta Falcons intercepted Peyton Manning three times during the first quarter in defeating the Denver Broncos 27-21 to close out the second week of the National Football League season.
Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes for the Falcons, who opened a 20-0 first-half lead after Denver had turnovers on four of its first five drives at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Three of Manning’s first eight passes were picked off, only the second time that the four-time NFL Most Valuable Player has had three interceptions during the opening quarter of a game.
“Disappointing start,” Manning said at a news conference. “Anytime you come on the road and throw three interceptions in the first quarter, it puts your team in a hole. Just three bad decisions. I’d like to have all three of them back.”
The Falcons improved to 2-0, joining the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers as the NFL’s remaining unbeaten teams. The Broncos fell to 1-1, having won last week’s season-opener at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Offensively we did just enough to get the win,” Ryan said in a televised interview. “That’s a good team and good quarterback. We weathered the storm.”
Michael Turner added a rushing touchdown for the Falcons, who sent Manning to a defeat in his second start for the Broncos. After missing the 2011 NFL season following neck surgery, Manning last week played in his first game in 19 months and passed for 253 yards and two scores in a 31-19 home victory against the Steelers. He completed 24 of 37 passes for 241 yards and one score last night.
Manning had his second pass intercepted against the Falcons and Turner scored on a one-yard run three plays later to give Atlanta a 7-0 lead.
Manning’s fourth pass was also picked off, setting up a 37-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. While the Falcons didn’t score after Manning’s third interception, they tacked on another field goal for a 13-0 lead after Knowshon Moreno fumbled on Denver’s fifth possession.
Ryan threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez with 4:45 left in the second quarter before Manning moved the Broncos 80 yards before halftime and capped the drive with a 17-yard toss to Demaryius Thomas.
The NFL’s replacement officials initially ruled that Thomas was out of bounds before reversing the call, one of several officiating mistakes during a game that had a 56-minute first quarter because of referees huddling in confusion.
The Falcons extended their lead to 27-7 midway through the third quarter on Ryan’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White.
A day after younger brother Eli Manning recovered from three interceptions to pass for 510 yards and three scores in the New York Giants’ 41-34 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Peyton Manning tried to rally the Broncos in Atlanta. The Broncos scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, both on 2-yard runs by Willis McGahee, before the Falcons were able to run out the clock and hold on for the win.