The floodgates opened down south on Monday night as the Atlanta Falcons frazzled, blitzed, and outplayed the Denver Broncos 27-21. Tim Tebow left the Broncos building in the off season and took every bit of that 2011 fourth quarter Mile High Magic with him. We were hoping for at least a little residual effect there.
The Broncos opened things up with four first quarter turnovers (three interceptions by Peyton Manning, and a fumble by Knowshon Moreno), but were down by just 13 points at halftime.
The Broncos hopped on the comeback train after being down 27-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, as Willis McGahee put the team on his back and the ball in his hands to rush for two scores late in the game. He had 113 yards on 22 carries. For McGahee, those were his first touchdowns of the season and his 8th 100-yard rushing game in the last two years which ties him with Arian Foster for the most in the NFL.
Manning went 24-for-37 for 241 yards with one touchdown to go along with his three picks. Manning’s lone touchdown pass was a 17-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas to close out the first half. That was Manning’s 231st touchdown pass in a domed stadium which is the most in NFL history.
Perhaps Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan is hot on his heels. Ryan went 24-for-36 for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns, and became just the second Atlanta Falcon to throw for 100 career touchdown passes. Give credit to the Broncos’ defense, however. The offense didn’t exactly set them up for success by throwing two interceptions in their first four pass attempts, one of which was run back to the Broncos’ 1-yard line.
It was the defense that kept it close. They held breakout wide receiver Julio Jones to 4 catches for just 14 yards. Tracy Porter and fourth-string CB Tony Carter did very well in that regard.
Another silver lining was punter Britton Colquitt’s three punts placed inside the 20-yard line. He gave the Broncos a solid shot at the end also.
An away loss to a very good NFC team hurts, but many predicted that this was the Falcons’ game to begin with. In the grand scheme of things, this means nothing in terms of tie breakers.
The Falcons may have won Monday Night/Tuesday morning (what a long game!), but the real winners were the real NFL referees. The labor dispute should be settled soon if the NFL wants to continue to be taken seriously.