Broncos vs. Falcons: Full Report Card Grades for Monday Night Football
Only the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos played on Monday Night Football this week; it just seemed like there were two games.
After 60 minutes of actual play and an eternity of penalties and delays, the Falcons claimed a high spot in this week's NFL power rankings by knocking off the Denver Broncos, 27-21.
The final score was actually much closer than it should have been. The Broncos provided plenty of opportunities, but the Falcons never seized complete control of the game.
There were plenty of different factors that made up the sum of this game. Click through to see the grades that were assigned to each contributor.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: In a duel between top-tier quarterbacks, Ryan was the one who stole the show. He continuously kept his eyes down the field in the face of pressure and delivered strikes.
His receivers made some nice catches (well, most of them) and the play-calling was solid. The Denver Broncos were on their heels for a good chunk of the game, never catching on until late.
However, Ryan was the engine that drove this offensive machine. He tossed two touchdowns, including the 100th of his career.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons: White was determined to remind everyone that the Atlanta Falcons have another wideout besides Julio Jones. No one will forget it anytime soon.
Ryan's first love rekindled that old flame by grabbing eight receptions (many of them with a Bronco draped on him) for 102 yards and a score. His vintage performance was only overshadowed by his quarterback and the referees.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons: Speaking of reliving the past, Gonzalez kicked Father Time to the curb and continued his assault on the record books with a throwback performance.
He looked much as he did as a young man, pulling in seven catches for 70 yards with a touchdown. He even celebrated.
William Moore, S, Falcons: The Falcons defense came out pumped up and made Peyton Manning look like he was an aging quarterback coming off a series of neck injuries. Moore was a big part of that.
He recorded an early interception off the Broncos quarterback and delivered a touchdown-saving hit on Demaryius Thomas in the first half.
He even helped contain Denver's comeback bid by sacking Manning in the middle of the fourth quarter on a critical third-down play.
Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos: Gonzales wasn't the only one going retro on Monday night. McGahee recaptured his old form and turned in a workmanlike effort.
He finished with 22 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns. His 31-yard run demonstrated that he still has plenty of power and burst.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos: His production probably only warrants a C, but his resiliency bumps him up a grade. Thomas didn't start off well, dropping a touchdown catch on the aforementioned hit by William Moore.
However, he bounced back to record eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he seemed to be the only other offensive Bronco that understood how important this game was.
Mike Nolan, DC, Falcons: Not many game plans leave Peyton Manning shaking his head. The Falcons' scheme certainly accomplished that mission.
They routinely walked nine men up to the box, leaving Manning unsure of who was blitzing and who was dropping into coverage. All the early confusion led to three Manning interceptions.
Asante Samuel, CB, Falcons: The Falcons brought in Samuel to bolster a deep unit. Now that the secondary has been thinned out by injury, Samuel stepped up and filled the void.
After hurting himself by challenging a blocker, he returned to the game, promptly smacking a tight end and drilling Eric Decker. His physical play resulted in seven tackles as he set the tone for the defensive backfield.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Falcons: Weatherspoon led the Falcons with 10 tackles, including one for a loss. He doesn't get a better grade based on the Atlanta run defense as a whole. If you give up that many yards and touchdowns to a 30-year-old running back, you settle for a C.
Denver Broncos Defense: The Denver offense did everything they could to give this game away early. Only the defense kept their hopes alive and gave them a chance in the fourth quarter.
The front line was able to pressure Ryan but recorded only one sack and failed to force any turnovers.
Eric Decker, WR, Broncos: Another decent night for Denver's No. 2 receiver. Decker made a few plays here and there and ended the game with four catches for 53 yards.
Von Miller, DE, Broncos: The Denver defense has already been recognized as a whole, but Miller deserves his own acknowledgment. He performed admirably with one sack and two tackles for a loss. However, it wasn't enough as he ended the game with a total of three tackles.
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos: Eli Manning was able to overcome three early interceptions to lead his team to victory. Peyton wasn't quite so lucky.
He started off the game poorly, throwing an astonishing three picks in the first quarter. He looked lost as the Falcons refused to show what coverages they'd be running until the ball was snapped. This approach led to Manning lofting multiple passes deep over the middle of the field to the Falcons defensive backs' delight.
Manning showed a veteran's poise by leading the Broncos to a couple late touchdowns and creating some tension in the Georgia Dome. However, he didn't get the ball back, ending his night with 241 yards and a touchdown to go along with those three turnovers.
Michael Turner, RB, Broncos: Turner did two things right: He didn't fumble and he broke off the last run necessary to ice the ballgame. Other than that, he was ineffective.
Turner no longer has the burst he had a few years ago. Yet, it was shocking to see his trademark power leave him as the game wore on.
Offensive Line, Falcons: Matt Ryan's game was worthy of an A partially because he wasn't given much help from his offensive line. They struggled to open up any holes or to give Ryan the time he needed to find clear passing lanes.
To put a numerical value on it, Atlanta finished with 275 yards, which included a scant 67 on the ground.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: Rough day at the office for last week's fantasy stud. He recorded four catches for 14 yards. That's not a misprint.
His signature play of this game was a dropped touchdown pass that forced Atlanta to settle for a field goal. Jones is lucky it didn't come back to bite the Falcons.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: Moreno has never lived up to his first-round billing, but he cemented his bust status against the Falcons. He ran for two yards on three carries and put the ball on the carpet. He probably shouldn't expect too many carries going forward.
Replacement Referees and the NFL: There isn't much of a need to rehash what happened Monday night with the officials. There was confusion, blown calls and challenges that would have been unnecessary if the replacements had a pulse. It isn't really their fault, but they're the ones out there.
Get the deal done, Roger. This was pathetic.