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Matt Ryan, Falcons beat mistake-prone Peyton Manning, Broncos 27-21
Ryan was much more efficient than the four-time MVP, completing 24 of 36 for 219 yards. He hooked up with Tony Gonzalez for a 1-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, then went to White on a 4-yard score in the third period.
Matt Bryant kicked two field goals for the Falcons, and Michael Turner scored Atlanta’s first TD on a 1-yard run, the play set up by the first of Manning’s picks. Hours later, Turner was arrested on charges of drunken driving and speeding.
Turner was released on bail after spending barely two hours in jail. The team said it was aware of the arrest but did not have any immediate comment.
“I thought we could find a little momentum there, find some rhythm, which we did,” he said. “We had a chance to win that game. I think we will learn from it and we’ll be better for it.”
The only other time Manning was picked off three times in the opening quarter was with the Colts in a 2007 game at San Diego. The Broncos, in fact, had turnovers on four on their first five possessions.
On the third play from scrimmage, Manning threw into triple coverage looking to connect with Jacob Tamme. Instead, Moore stepped in front of the tight end for the interception and ran down the sideline 33 yards before he was tackled at the 1. Turner took it in from there.
The Broncos ran two plays before Manning faked a play-action handoff and threw down the right seam to Eric Decker. This time, DeCoud picked him off and brought it back 15 yards. After Julio Jones dropped what would have been a touchdown pass from Ryan in the left corner of the end zone, Bryant followed with a 37-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
On Sunday, Manning’s younger brother, Eli, threw three interceptions in the first half. But he rallied the New York Giants to a 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
No such luck for big brother.
On the next-to-last snap of the first quarter, Atlanta linebacker Stephen Nicholas forced a fumble by Knowshon Moreno near the Denver sideline and Sean Weatherspoon recovered for Atlanta. The Falcons ran 10 plays before Bryant kicked a 42-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead.
Then, it was Ryan finding Gonzalez all alone in the back of the end zone. The tight end who has caught the second-most passes in NFL history was freed up by his quarterback’s nifty play fake that made it 20-0, punctuated by Gonzalez’s dunk over the goal posts.
The Broncos finally got on the board with 6 seconds left in the half, though it took the replacement officials a second look to get it right. They initially ruled Thomas had been pushed out of bounds without getting both feet down. The replay clearly showed otherwise. Broncos coach John Fox challenged the call and it was reversed.
By Brahma Chellaney
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