- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ATLANTA — Peyton Manning knew there would be some stumbles along the way.

There had to be after four neck surgeries, a year away from the field, and the transition to a new team.

But even at his most pessimistic, Manning surely never envisioned a quarter like this.

One pick. Then another. Then a third.

All before he made it through the opening period Monday night.

Manning’s three interceptions in the first 8 minutes helped the Atlanta Falcons build a big lead, and they held off the Denver Broncos for a 27-21 victory.

“Just a really tough start,” Manning said. “I won’t make any excuses for it. We made poor decisions. We have to eliminate those mistakes.”

Matt Ryan threw the 100th touchdown pass of his career, Roddy White had 102 yards receiving and the Falcons (2-0) made an early 20-0 lead stand up, if just barely. Denver (1-1) rallied for a couple of touchdowns in the fourth quarter and were a defensive stop away from getting one last chance to pull it out.

Still, the feel-good optimism from Week 1, when Manning deftly guided the Broncos to an impressive win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in his Mile High debut, was largely erased at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons, of course, had a grand ol’ time against Manning.

“I watched him growing up, and it was good to go out and play against him,” said Falcons safety William Moore, who had the first of the picks against Manning, setting up a quick touchdown. “I hope he remembers No. 25.”

Maybe in his nightmares.

Thomas DeCoud and Robert McClain also had interceptions as new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan kept mixing up his formations and moving players around the field, confusing Manning enough to put the Falcons in position to pick off passes that seemed a bit wobbly and lacking the zip he had during his glory days in Indianapolis.

“Each turnover has its own story that no one really wants to hear,” Manning said. “I’ve just got to take care of the ball better.”

He finished 24 of 37 for 241 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas just before halftime. Willis McGahee rushed for 113 yards and scored on a pair of 2-yard runs in the final 12 minutes.

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