Falcons dominating Broncos through 3 quarters
Matt Ryan threw the 100th touchdown pass of his career and the Atlanta Falcons took a 27-7 lead after three quarters over the Denver Broncos and struggling quarterback Peyton Manning on Monday night.
Manning was intercepted three times in the first quarter, only the second time in his career he's had such an awful opening period. The Falcons raced to a 20-0 lead before Manning finally connected with Demaryius Thomas on a 17-yard TD pass with 6 seconds left in the first half.
But Ryan guided the Falcons on a 64-yard drive that put the home team solidly in control heading to the final quarter. He hooked up with Roddy White on consecutive passes of 21 and 20 yards, then went to White on a 4-yarder for the touchdown.
White had eight catches for 102 yards.
Ryan connected with Tony Gonzalez on a 1-yard TD in the second quarter. The tight end, who has caught the second-most passes in NFL history, was left wide open in the back of the end zone on a crossing route, after his quarterback froze the Broncos defense with a nifty play fake.
A week after Manning won his Denver debut with a home victory over Pittsburgh, the Broncos had turnovers on four on their first five possessions.
Manning was picked three times on his first eight attempts. The last time he threw three interceptions in the first quarter was in Indianapolis' 23-21 loss at San Diego on Nov. 11, 2007. The four-time MVP had a 31.2 passer rating in the period.
It was an uncharacteristic prime time start for Manning, who began the night with an 11-3 career record on Mondays.
On the game's third play from scrimmage, Manning threw into triple coverage to Jacob Tamme, but Falcons strong safety William Moore stepped in front of the tight end for an interception.
Moore ran down the left sideline 33 yards before Orlando Franklin tackled him at the 1.
Falcons running back Michael Turner ran twice over the left side of the line before jumping over a stack of Atlanta and Denver linemen to cross the ball over the goal line for a 7-0 lead with 13:20 left in the first quarter.
The Broncos ran two plays before Manning faked a play-action handoff and threw down the right seam to Eric Decker. This time, free safety Thomas DeCoud picked him off and returned it 15 yards.
After Julio Jones dropped what would have been a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ryan in the left corner of the end zone, Matt Bryant followed with a 37-yard field goal to make it 10-0 at the 9:46 mark.
Manning's third pick went to Robert McClain, a reserve cornerback who was taking his first snap because Asante Samuel injured his neck on the previous play.
On Sunday, Manning's younger brother, Eli, threw three interceptions in the first half then rallied the New York Giants to a 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Atlanta nickel cornerback Christopher Owens left the game in the opening quarter with a head injury and did not return, further depleting a secondary that already lost Brent Grimes to a season-ending injury in Week 1.
Samuel returned to the field on Denver's next possession, whiffing on Willis McGahee's 31-yard run, but stopping Tamme 1 yard short of a first down to force a punt two snaps later.
On the next-to-last snap of the first quarter, Atlanta linebacker Stephen Nicholas forced a fumble by Knoshown Moreno near the Denver sideline and Sean Weatherspoon recovered for Atlanta.
A scrum began after the Falcons were awarded the ball.
Fox was on the field trying to restore order as players from both teams shoved each other. As Samuel was walking away, Broncos guard Zane Beadles ran into him and knocked him down. Samuel quickly jumped up, and Atlanta defensive end Ray Edwards appeared to throw a punch at a Denver player.
No one was ejected.
After Moreno's fumble, the Falcons ran 10 plays before Bryant kicked a 42-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead. Gonzalez's TD made it 20-0 before the Broncos finally broke through.
The replacement officials initially ruled Thomas had been pushed out of bounds without getting both feet down. Broncos coach John Fox challenged the call, and the play was reversed in Denver's favor.
The Falcons were trying to snap a six-game losing streak on Mondays, including 0-3 under coach Mike Smith.
Their last Monday win came over New Orleans on Dec. 12, 2005.