By Rich Kurtzman
Peyton Manning came out and threw three interceptions early, and coupled with a Knowshon Moreno fumble, the Broncos’ four first quarter turnovers sank the team’s efforts Monday night. They ran 22 plays on their first six drives combined, and were never able to overcome those early miscues.
The Falcons capitalized on the turnovers, jumping out to a 13-0 lead in the first and taking the 20-7 lead into halftime.
Denver fought back in the second half, trying valiantly to come back and bringing the game to 27-21 with 3:25 left on the clock, but they couldn’t overcome the deficit and eventually lost the game by that score.
“You have to remember Peyton Manning’s a new quarterback in our system. He’s adjusting to new teammates, adjusting to things we’re doing,” explained head coach John Fox. “It’s not going to happen overnight. He’s just going to get better. We learned a lot about our team tonight. You can’t be a negative four in the turnover battle and expect to win.”
“Usually when you turn the ball over four times you don’t have a chance to win,” said Manning following the loss. “I thought that we did fight back, that we had a chance to win. But at the end I put our team in too far a hole.”
For Atlanta, Manning’s miscues were their opportunities at scoring, and they never looked back. Michael Tuner’s one-yard run was scored easily after the first pick was returned deep into Denver territory, while they turned the other two turnovers into field goals and the 13-0 lead.
It became 20-0 with a long drive capped off with a Tony Gonzalez wide open touchdown in the back of the end zone and the Broncos finally scored at the end of the half to make it 20-7.
Matt Ryan marched his team down field methodically in the second half to widen the lead to 27-7, scoring his 100th passing touchdown on the connection with Roddy White.
Denver defiantly fought back, bringing it to 27-21 with 3:25 left on the clock, but that was as close as they would get.
The Broncos played a decent game defensively, only allowing 275 total yards, but those early four turnovers turned into back-breakers for Denver.
They fell to 1-1 on the season, while Atlanta, some experts’ Super Bowl favorite, becomes one of six teams to improve to 2-0 on the year.
Replacement referees mistakes:
In the first quarter, a pass interference penalty was called that was incorrect and the replacements made up for their mistake when Broncos head coach John Fox challenged the penalty. Broncos safety Mike Adams had the ball go through his hands just as Tony Carter made contact with Roddy White, which the refs got correct upon further review.
At the very end of the first quarter, the referees lost complete control of the game in a massive scrum. Knowshon Moreno fumbled the football and a dog pile resulted with the Broncos falling on the football first and Orlando Franklin of Denver coming out of the piles with the football. But before the pile was even pulled apart, the refs awarded the ball to Atlanta. After all of that, Edwards got into a shoving match with a Broncos player, pushing one of the refs in the process. But instead of being thrown out of the game, as he would have been if the regular referees were there, they called a personal foul instead.
Near the end of the half, the Broncos’ first touchdown was called out of bounds and when it was reviewed, it was clear it was a touchdown. Denver was lucky it was within two minutes so it didn’t cost them a timeout.
But before that, the refs gave Denver an extra six yards. There was a holding penalty, and they gave the Broncos 11 yards—it’s 10 in college and 5 in the NFL—moving the Broncos from the 43 to the 32. Denver scored their first touchdown from there.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.