The Falcons spoil ESPN’s Peyton party and win a big one

The Falcons' Vance Walker slams into the famous Denver quarterback. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Vance Walker slams into the famous Denver quarterback. (AP photo by David Goldman)

ESPN tried to throw a Peyton party Monday night. Some guys wearing red almost turned it into a pity party. The Worldwide Leader sought to show the world the greatness that is Peyton Manning; the Falcons almost made you feel sorry for the old guy.

Almost, I said.

We can only hope that some who tuned in to watch Peyton stuck around to appreciate the team in red. It ain’t bad, folks. It’s better than it was last season, maybe better than in the 13-3 run of 2010. In Week 1 the Falcons let Kansas City hang around before pulling away on the road. On Monday night they never let Denver get started. It was 10-0 barely five minutes in, 20-0 late in the second quarter, 27-7 midway through the third.

Of Peyton’s first eight passes, four were caught by Broncos; three were snagged by Falcons. In order, the interceptors were William Moore, Thomas DeCoud and Robert McClain. There were those who thought Manning would lay waste to a secondary minus the injured Brent Grimes, but he needed nearly all the first half to lead his team to its first points, and those came only after a replay review of a frankly outrageous Demaryius Thomas catch.

Which brings us to the officiating. It was awful. The first half lasted one hour, 48 minutes, and the inaction was largely because of the replacement refs — the regulars are locked out — having little idea what was what. One Atlanta touchdown was overruled by technology; the aforementioned first Denver score was posted only after TV corrected the man on the scene.

The low point — we’re talking sinkholes now — came when the Broncos’ Knowshon Moreno, who used to be a big deal around here, fumbled at the end of the first quarter. Players from both teams gave impassioned tutorials in the fine art of pointing. The refs stood around and gawked, apparently afraid to offend either side. A Broncos lineman nudged one official, perhaps in the effort to end the deliberation, and then the players started shoving each other, and Denver coach John Fox lent his perspective, and the Falcons’ Ray Edwards got himself flagged for unnecessary roughness.

Days later, it was determined that Sean Weatherspoon had recovered. The Falcons didn’t score off that turnover — Denver’s fourth of the quarter — and their lead remained only 10-0. For long moments it seemed as if they’d live to rue this squandered chance, but in the end there would be no cause for ruing. They were too good for Denver, too good for the famous Peyton Manning.

“When you get an opportunity to steal possessions against a very good offense, you’ve got to make them pay,” Falcons coach Mike Smith would say. “We played a good game, but there are lots of things we have to address.”

As we know, the Falcons changed both coordinators over the winter. Most of the attention has fallen on Dirk Koetter, the new offensive man, and he had his coming-out moment in Kansas City. This night was the time of introduction for Mike Nolan, charged with energizing a mediocre defense. Nolan’s schemes flummoxed Manning early, and if you do that you’ve done something.

“The way we were disguising things, I think we had him on his heels,” DeCoud said. “To be able to do that is a testament to how we’ve grown as a team. It’s a testament that we’ve taken the next step.”

Nolan’s No-Names won this one. The offense didn’t move much. Michael Turner went mostly nowhere, and Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez managed to drop two passes apiece. (The massively gifted Jones even flubbed a touchdown that would have made it 14-nil.) But this “D” kept giving the ball back to Matt Ryan, and finally the Falcons stitched together two nice-looking touchdown drives.

The second made the score 27-7, and even after the Broncos scored to draw within 13 points early in the fourth, there was no sense that this would be Peyton’s night. Those early turnovers would have taxed even the Manning of old’s comeback prowess, and this wasn’t quite the Manning of old — just an older Manning.

By beating such a famous opponent, the Falcons served notice that their time might well be hand. They’re still not a finished product — the running game needs serious work — but they have enough talent to make them a serious NFC player. They’ve had it for a while. Difference is, they’ve got coaches inclined to let that talent have its way.

Eight minutes left, Denver trailing by 13 points but facing third-and-6 at the Falcons’ 36. Remember the soft zones of Brian VanGorder? Remember how Nolan, in his introductory teleconference, said he’d like to have 10 guys getting four sacks apiece rather than four guys getting 10? Well, here was your moment of both departure and arrival. Moore, the strong safety, came clean off the left side and sacked Manning.

The Broncos would score with 3:25 left to draw within 27-21, and now it was nervous time. Would the Falcons flop again in prime time, this time blowing a 20-point lead? Would they, after all their good work, remind us that they’re still the feckless Falcons?

Nope. Ryan found Jones for a vital first down with 2 1/2 minutes left, Ryan dodging a hard rush to buy his receiver the needed nanosecond to shake loose. Then Turner finally broke free for the clincher, and the party-crashers had their victory. The Falcons were 2-0, alone atop the NFC South. Even better, they were 1-0 against Peyton Manning. And when last this team beat Peyton, it wound up in the Super Bowl. You could look it up.

By Mark Bradley

214 comments Add your comment

GT Trumpet

September 18th, 2012
12:52 am

Woo Falcons!

Ga. DAWG

September 18th, 2012
1:03 am

Great game. Glad to be a Falcons fan. Bright future and for once thank management for their drafts. by the way, second!

Seen This B4

September 18th, 2012
1:04 am

Saints are the best team in football. You read it here. Prove me wrong losers.

Stephen

September 18th, 2012
1:09 am

Glad I don’t have to post about our D for once! Running game needs to get going, Turner keeps running right into our linemen. WRs dropped a few and we couldn’t put much together until a couple key drives, but thankfully D stepped up. 1 of 6 2-0 teams in the league, Texans up next! Go Birds.

Loran, Whatayagot?

September 18th, 2012
1:10 am

Peyton is a classy guy. We should feel confident in a team that can rattle and intercept him. Then he almost beat us anyway. Great game, Go, you Falcons.

JSS

September 18th, 2012
1:12 am

Wow, even for you that filter is too tight…

Stephen

September 18th, 2012
1:12 am

Glad I dont have to call out the D for once, gotta get O running stronger, Turner keeps running into the line and falling forward for 2 yards. One of six undefeated teams in the NFL, proud to be a Falcons fan!

JSS

September 18th, 2012
1:13 am

User-name stealers and bandwagon machismo….

Stephen

September 18th, 2012
1:14 am

Gotta get the O running stronger, but D stepped up big. Turner keeps running straight into the line and falling forward for 2 yards. Proud to be a Falcons fan!

Mora less Petrino

September 18th, 2012
1:17 am

Two games into the season, Ryan looks very smooth!

Interceptions so far:

Brees 4
Manning 3
Vick 6
Ryan 0

Gumbo

September 18th, 2012
1:18 am

Gald we won – didn;t realize Mularkey got to be the OC if his team wasn’t playing. Snelling is the Thunder (think Ahmad Bradshaw) and Quizz is the lightning. Turner is the ‘Dancing Bear” (for all you Captn Kangaroo fans) -dont believ me, check out his YPC – ridiculous…. Wily Mo is legit, and the Berrman has beat out No 93. Nicholas continues his very fine work and depeted secondary stepped it up. Nor much to say for offense – this was a Battle of the DCs. Baker had a helluva nite, and Roddy made some big plays. Julio got shut down by Champ. He ain’t the first one to get schooled by #24.

Gumbo

September 18th, 2012
1:20 am

M Ryan is P. Manning 3.0

Paul

September 18th, 2012
1:23 am

Could have won, and should have won this one 45-7. Same old trying to run the clock out. Getting away from what got you there. If Turner had 13 rushes, I assume he gained maybe 20 yards. If this team would TRY to score 7 on every possession — I think they could win it all. They get close and primordially start thinking field goal! If this has become professional wrestling for the benefit of the networks — fans are being taken for fools.

MarkATL

September 18th, 2012
1:25 am

That D was TOTALLY DOMINATING!!!! They will get even better!!!!!!!

MarkATL

September 18th, 2012
1:26 am

I wonder how dumb Peter King and ESPN feel now that the Falcons have beaten their beloved Peyton?? LOL

Say what

September 18th, 2012
1:32 am

the level of commentary I would expect from JSS…lol

Mora less Petrino

September 18th, 2012
1:40 am

From the Denver media:
“It was emotional,” Brooking said. “I spent a lot of good years here. It wasn’t a very good homecoming for me. We got beat by a good team.”

Eric C.

September 18th, 2012
1:51 am

I think Brooking is sincere. He really feels bad about his actions. I hope he is remembered for his glory days on the 1998 SB team.

Eric C.

September 18th, 2012
1:52 am

The punt return game was pathetic tonight and nearly cost the game…can’t let injuries have that much of an effect.

Thrashers fan!

September 18th, 2012
1:54 am

omg that was fun to watch!

RISE UP, ATLANTA!

Left Coast Dawg

September 18th, 2012
2:04 am

I really doubt that was truly “SeenThisB4″ making that post. He loves his Aints but he’s not that ignorant to post a comment like that after the Saints have started 0-2.

Puma

September 18th, 2012
2:05 am

Reading about this game on other websites makes it seem like Falcons were lucky, that Denver gave it away…what a bunch of BS! Peyton made mistakes, yes, but our D caused those mistakes and were able to get the turnovers.

The only thing that bugged me about the game was it seemed like the offence got conservative there in the 4th quarter which let them back in the game. Otherwise, we dominated a really good football team for 3 1/2 quarters.

Only one winless team left in NFC

September 18th, 2012
2:08 am

The Saints are an embarrassment to the NFC South! They are making the whole division look bad. You just know KC will get on track against them this weekend. In the Saints long history, we have definitely Seen This B 4.

matty "ICE" ryan

September 18th, 2012
2:14 am

elway got his feelings hurt

during the RISE UP.

the silverman

September 18th, 2012
2:19 am

Awesome atmosphere at the Dome tonight. Defense looked great early and the Offense did enough. On a side not I sat next to Dirk Koetters family at the game and it seeemed to me they were happy to be out of Jacksonville

matty "ICE" ryan

September 18th, 2012
2:19 am

a bunch a hype came to our house

and got their little broncos whipped Real Hard.

Zack

September 18th, 2012
2:34 am

Great job DIRTY BIRDS!!! Still need to learn to put teams away but I will take it! Falcons need a RB to groom ASAP!

Mr. Mustard

September 18th, 2012
2:39 am

Several points to make:

1) Congratulations Falcons! They won on national stage against a good opponent. Finally. No third down implosions, and some great quaterback play from Ryan.

2) Roddy White delivered tonight. I guess Julio was double covered? Offense started slowly, and Ryan went to his Mr. White and Roddie delivered.

3) The star of the game in my opinion? Mike Nolan! – The FALCONS played with some ingenuity?! Our Falcons? Shootfire, we may actually return a punt for once in the near future.

4) On the field stars? William Moore and Sean Weatherspoon. Great game gentlemen, great game.

5) Well said Mr. Bradley, the only way ESPN could have sensationalized Peyton Manning any more is by sticking a camera up his butt to see what may come out next! Geez. I guess the only good from that is they did not mention Tim Tebow for a few hours.

6) People, it is okay to side with labor sometimes, and frankly we should. The NFL referees deserve to be paid. They are elite, skilled esoteric professionals who do great work and the league is prospering. It used to be if you are good, and the business you work for is prospering, to say it mildly for the NFL, that you got a piece of the pie. Pay them.

7) I have tried to find coverage of the Falcons all week, and even when the NFL network said the Falcons analysis was coming, it was about Manning. One film clip. Finally, we won and they had to show us and talk about us.

8) Manning didn’t almost pull it out, the Falcons defense confused him, picked him off three times, and kept him in check for most of the game. Thank you Mike Nolan, we actually adjusted in a game.

9) The Falcons won against Manning and in primetime nation, deal with it.

10) Sorry guys, but Michael Turner is done. Stick a fork in him because the “burner” is burnt to a crisp. I like the guy, but with his huge legs, which is all we hear about he cannot break a tackle or create anything on his own. Yes, all backs need blocking but the good ones also assist their lines and teams by creating something occassionally. Turner gets touched and goes down. Hope we can mask him and use him sparingly until the next draft.

Yes, I think the Falcons are finally in a place where we may challenge for a Super Bowl.

Congratulations Atlanta. Now go beat the Chargers.

I cannot wait to turn on the NFL network and ESPN to hear about Tim Tebow and if we’re lucky they might mention Brett Favre.

lol.

matty "ICE" ryan

September 18th, 2012
2:43 am

It was a nightmare for Peyton
and Elway wishes he still had Tebow.

matty "ICE" ryan

September 18th, 2012
2:44 am

Enter your comments here

matty "ICE" ryan

September 18th, 2012
2:47 am

The Broncos need to groom their ugly performance.

FalconJim

September 18th, 2012
3:25 am

We need a back like Sproles…..we’d be scary good, then. But good game, all-in-all…

southernfjord

September 18th, 2012
3:27 am

Where is “Seen this B4″? I’m really worried about him. Perhaps he’s choking on crow?

joeyoffice

September 18th, 2012
3:37 am

I was there. That game was beyond loud when we were on defense. It was absolutely incredible!! Got to hand it to the defense. They looked absolutely amazing tonight. Offense definitely could have played better (missed a few key plays – if jones catches the TD game would have been over, if tony G catches that 3rd conversion our drive keeps going) but at least they came through those last few plays. Also remember Denver has a fantastic defense. So all in all offense was good with 2 long TD drives. But that defense was something else!

Heath

September 18th, 2012
3:40 am

With a solid running game this team would be unstoppable. Kudos to the coaching staff for not trying to use it 30 times a game when it isn’t working like last year’s did.

Strange Murphy

September 18th, 2012
3:48 am

GO YOU DIRTY BIRDS!!!!

michael

September 18th, 2012
3:49 am

With Malarky we pounded thd ball with our big backs, now the offense has changed and Turner is hurting our running game. Wherever the run is designed to go if the whole is closed he has no where to go. We need a runner similiar to Mcgauhey who can bounce it outside if need be or even heaven forbid catch a pass in space.

Scott

September 18th, 2012
5:39 am

I’m excited… Going into the game everyone thought that we had to outscore Denver. We won the game without ever getting our offense started. Who would have thought that our D would be the storyline? Last night the falcons proved that they can win in multiple ways. This is a promising start to the season. Go Birds

No playoff win...no SB ring FAILCANTS

September 18th, 2012
5:40 am

Fact…you’re still loosahs…truth hurts, huh?

No playoff win...no SB ring FAILCANTS

September 18th, 2012
5:44 am

Dawg

September 18th, 2012
5:56 am

Good night for the Falcons, bad night for ESPN.

Samuel

September 18th, 2012
6:04 am

Let’s keep in mind that the Broncos have a pretty good defense. Being said that, we won the game on both sides of the ball. I like to see that running game get going, it’s still a work in progress. I wouldn’t say Julio Jones is the number one wideout, under pressure White had a better game. I didn’t hear Ray Edwards name, other than when he got into a fight.

Ackshun

September 18th, 2012
6:11 am

This win didn’t happen because Peyton Manning has lost a step. If you think so just ask Pittsburgh. This win happened because Mike Nolan watched film on Manning found a weakness and exploited it. He turned everything that Manning was against him and Manning had a bad day. That happens when a team is ready for you. Nolan coached a beaut last night that why there was success early on no matter who was in at corner. What worries me about this team is a lack of killer instinct. The game could have gone south in the 4th because Mike Smith is a nice guy who takes his foot off the gas everytime his team is up 3 scores. Peyton almost made him pay for that generousity. In this NFL teams can score in seconds, and you need to be thinking TD everytime you touch the ball. There is nothing decent about losing. Oh and by the way NO will probably win this weekend but they are getting drilled the rest of the year. Saints fans, keep that DVR of the Super Bowl handy, and that bag with the eyeholes cut in it.

mambo

September 18th, 2012
6:16 am

I don’t know what was worse the officiating or the broadcast booth.

Honey boy

September 18th, 2012
6:32 am

A nice win, I repeat, WIN,!! It ain’t how, it’s how many! For all the haters who said the Broncos would come in here and B slap the Birds……HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You know who you are so suck it up. How’s it feel?? Speaking about losers, “Seen this B4″… The Saint aren’t even on the relevance meter….0-2!!! How could you possibly post that? Are you just stupid? Err…never mind, another poseur!

Sam

September 18th, 2012
6:32 am

What happened to screen pass to JR? I surely thought we would use it to slow down their pass rush but I think we threw one bubble screen to Julio for like 1 yd gain. Turner is getting painful to watch

Riceman61

September 18th, 2012
6:51 am

Nice to see the Falcons win on a big stage. Ryan’s talent and leadership have caught up to his huge potential, this team can make a lot of noise.

yeahsure

September 18th, 2012
7:00 am

MVPS –
Offense: Roddy
Defense: Willy Moe
Coordinator: Mike Freakin Nolan!!

Honorable mention: THe crowd. Not sure how it sounded on TV, but on one drives, we were louder than i’ve ever heard the Dome. Good job guys.

Hall of Shame: Scab Refs. It was chaos throughout the entire night. I spent more time booing the refs than anything. I was really sure there was going to be a brawl at one point.

The Big Fat Blogger

September 18th, 2012
7:05 am

Love It!!!!! Keep up the great work Falcons!!!!!!!!!

jhs

September 18th, 2012
7:08 am

still think they should finance their own stadium.