The second Monday Night Football match of the year pitted the Denver Broncos against the Atlanta Falcons. Playing in Atlanta is always a daunting task in this era. Matt Ryan is nearly flawless at home, and the Atlanta crowd always pumps up the Falcons on both sides of the ball.
Unsurprisingly, Atlanta came sprinting out of the gate. They suffocated Denver on offense, forced Peyton to throw uncharacteristic picks, and ate up the clock while tiring out the Denver defense. Matt Ryan took hits in the pockets and found his receivers open with brilliant pass after brilliant pass across the field.
Denver went into the second half down 20-7, and while making a comeback run in the second half, they couldn't hold off Matt Ryan and his team, ultimately losing the game 27-21.
Lots of questions will have to be addressed in Denver this week, and the most obvious of these is why and how Peyton Manning threw three first half picks.
Overall, crisis was averted in a game that could have been a blowout on the field and on paper, and it should certainly be remembered that Atlanta is one of the league's most complete teams.
Denver is still strong coming out of this game, but as was the case in Pittsburgh last week and as was the case this week, they need to come out with more spunk out of the gate.
Here are the games winners and losers.
Tracy Porter was once again a winner for Denver. He's proving to be a suitable compliment to Champ Bailey and is also showing everybody that his best days are far from over. He played tight coverage in isolation sets and was around to help out safety Rahim Moore on passes across the middle. He also almost had a pick six for the second week in a row.
Kevin Vickerson played well on the defensive line for Denver. The entire Denver defense really deserves a hand, as they spent a tremendous amount of time on the field in the first half and were put into some situations that were out of their hands. They held a brilliant Matt Ryan to only 219 yards and Michael Turner to only 42 yards on the ground. Vickerson highlighted this run-stopping with strong play up front.
DeMaryius Thomas had a rough drop in the end zone, being on the receiving end of a hard hit, yet he made up for it later in the same series with a top-10 worthy touchdown grab. He managed to get his second foot in bounds as he was being pushed out and while controlling the ball with one hand. The entire Denver receiving corps really stepped up tonight, and they showed everyone that they are for real.
Willis McGahee continues to defy his age and is having a brilliant second half of his career in Denver. He carried the offense tonight on many big plays, and was brilliant by the goal line, scoring two touchdowns. He accumulated 113 yards on 22 carries, yet was unfortunately the victim of a vicious Atlanta defense and poor play calling on more than a few instances.
Peyton Manning is the obvious loser of the game and will hands down be the most-discussed player. His three picks in the first half were atrocious, and it was one of the worst halves of his career. He forced throws into double coverage and struggled to maintain his composure while facing the Atlanta pass-rush.
It wasn't a good night for Peyton, and he surely isn't happy with himself. However, he did show stretches of brilliance near the end of the game, which should leave Denver fans hopeful.
Rahim Moore looked great in Week 1 and looked quite the opposite tonight. The young safety was often three to five yards back from receivers on crossing routes, and the Atlanta receivers were able to make Matt Ryan's job too easy as a result. Credit of course goes to Ryan and his receivers; they both played a brilliant game. Moore, however, needs to step up and play tighter coverage.
Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy really disappointed me tonight. I was very impressed last week with the play calling. He allowed Peyton to run the hurry up offense, and Peyton took a ton of snaps in the shotgun. He's comfortable there, the receivers knew what to do, and draw plays to McGahee out of the shotgun worked great.
This week, the offense was tight and the play calls were conservative and ineffective. Nearly all the runs to McGahee were standards, and Peyton lined up almost exclusively under center throughout the first half.
I'm baffled as to why McCoy changed the play calls so much this week, and it certainly affected the tone and flow of the first half. Atlanta's defense was tough, but the Denver offense was not playing to its full potential and was certainly not being well-managed.