Throwing three interceptions in the first quarter of a football game anywhere, at any level, doesn’t give your team a very good chance to win — much less in the NFL. This isn’t news to Peyton Manning. He made some mistakes, and he knows it, and he’ll learn from the experience and be better off because of it.
Though, looking back on such an ugly first half performance, temps us to lay nearly 100 percent of the blame at Manning’s feet; I would suggest that we not be too hasty, and consider some other factors.
During Monday night’s game, in which the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Denver Broncos 27-21, Manning and the Broncos actually had a very good shot at winning that game. In fact, had it not been for two third down conversions by the Falcons late in the fourth quarter, Manning would have had the ball in his hands with time to spare, and a calm Matt Prater on the sidelines waiting to kick the extra point for the win.
But Manning never got that chance as the Broncos defense, who had been inconsistent at best throughout the evening, wasn’t able to hold off Matt Ryan and Michael Turner quite long enough. While there’s no question that Manning dug Denver into a deep hole in the first quarter, the Broncos gave up the game when they weren’t able to get those third down stops.
Another factor Manning could not control was the incredibly unreliable officiating on display during this game. This was perhaps most evident during a pass interference call against Tony Carter, on what would have been a fourth down and an obvious punting situation for the Falcons. Looking at the replay, you never see Carter actually touch Julio Jones. Do you have to touch a player to call a pass interference? Not in this case. The play should have stood as it happened, without any flags. Had that been the case, Denver would have had the ball and a chance to cut the lead to three. Instead, Ryan was able to march the Falcons the rest of the way and make it 17-0.
It’s not that Manning doesn’t bear a part of the responsibility for the Monday night meltdown. He certainly does, as the throws that led to interceptions are nothing short of baffling to watch on replay. Why he threw those balls is anybody’s guess, but credit Manning with getting back in there and all but making up for his mistake. Had he just a shred of better luck, and perhaps an adequately officiated game to play in, this game might have had a different outcome.