Atlanta’s secondary intercepted Peyton Manning three times to spark a Falcons 27-20 win over the Denver Broncos at the Georgia Dome.
“We were able to disguise our coverages very well,” said Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith. Falcons safety William Moore was hiding in plain sight on the right hash mark before picking off Manning’s pass intended for tight end Jacob Tamme on the third play of the game. “I was just roaming the field, and we were in zone coverage and I looked Peyton off a little bit,” said Moore.
Moore’s interception gave Matt Ryan and the offense field position inside the Broncos redzone. On second down, Michael Turner appeared to have lunged far enough to break the plane of the goal line for a score. It remained a touchdown for all of 30 seconds before the Replay Assistant in the booth reversed the call on the field. It was the first of several controversial calls made by the replacement officials on the night. The Booth Official reversed the call on the basis that Turner’s knee was down. Take a look at Picture 2. It shows Turner on his toes while lunging towards the endzone. Touchdown or no touchdown?
Despite the call the Falcons came away with a touchdown as Turner went up and over the top for a hard seven. Seven became ten after Manning threw his second interception on the very next drive. Thomas DeCoud, Moore’s defensive backfield-mate, picked off a pass floated up the right hash intended for Brandon Stokely.
The odds of Manning, one of the most prolific passers in the game, throwing those first two interceptions on consecutive series has to be astronomical. If that’s the case then what were the odds of him ringing up the hat-trick? A fool’s bet, right? Apparently not, just as the Broncos were threatening to cross into Falcons territory Robert McClain pilfered yet another pass from Manning.
Fox pointed to Manning’s lack of familiarity with the system and teammates as the reason for the picks. “You have to remember Peyton Manning is a new QB in our system, he is still adjusting to teammates and the things that we are doing that won’t happen overnight,” said Fox. ”That’s just a fact you know he is going to get better. A rationale the quarterback played down after the game. “A quarterback signs a check at the end of the day and each turnover has its own story and nobody wants to hear the whole thing,” said a visibly solemn Manning.
Atlanta turned three of the four turnovers into 13 points, one touchdown and two field goals, to win the turnover battle. A statistic Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wasn’t totally pleased with. “We need to do a better job offensively, I think, of scoring touchdowns off of those turnovers,” said Ryan.
Denver finally breached the endzone before the end of the half but it took another replay to do it. Manning’s 17 yard pass to Demaryius Thomas near the side boundary of the endzone was initially ruled out-of-bounds. This time the Replay Assistant made the right call as Thomas landed in bounds with both feet.
The Falcons added an insurance score on their second drive of the third quarter. It was mostly the Ryan and Roddy White connection as the pair hooked up three times for 45 yards and a touchdown on the drive.
White’s score turned out to be the game winner as Manning led the Broncos back in the second half. “Normally, when you turn the ball over four times you don’t have a chance to win the game,” said Manning. “We did fight back and had a chance at the end”.
Willis McGahee, who had rushed for 77 yds on 11 carries in the first half, punched in two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Manning threw for 60 yards, half of the 120 first half yards, on the drive to set up the first 2 yard plunge for McGahee.
After McGahee’s second score left nearly three and a half minutes on the clock, a familiar glint appeared in Manning’s eyes. He had been here before. Beaten teams with spectacular game winning drives with less than two minutes to play. All he needed was the ball back. The Falcons nearly gave Manning the chance until Julio Jones, who had been kept relatively in check for most of the game, gained his most important 6 yards of his 14 game yards on third and five just before the two minute warning. Jones’ play may have put the nail in the coffin lid but Michael Turner’s 15 yard burst on second and 8 drove it deep into the wood for the win.
“That’s definitely the way you want to close out a game like that,” said Ryan.
Between the Falcons jumping out early and the Broncos roaring back but falling short, there was a ton of drama, waiting, more drama, and still more waiting. Several times the replacement referees incorrectly marked the ball that delayed the game. Then of course there was the near donnybrook that erupted after the Falcons were awarded possession of a Knowshon Moreno fumble. The first quarter alone took over an hour to play. By the second quarter the ‘Boo-birds’ began showering their displeasure with each delay of the game.
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