A game that was billed as a heavyweight shootout between two of the NFL‘s top quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan) and better teams wound up gaining recognition for every thing else but those aspects as the Atlanta Falcons knocked off the Denver Broncos 27-20 on Monday Night Football.
The lack of efficiency and consistency in the replacement referees was the major storyline at the end of this sometimes thrilling but many times ugly game as they blew call after call. At one point following a fumble by Denver running back Knowshon Moreno in the closing seconds of the first quarter there was an almost 10 minute (actual time) break in action while the referees attempted to figure which team had possession of the ball and also to defuse many small scuffles between players from both teams.
Manning (24-37, 241 yards, TD, 3 INT) wasn’t his usual self which was surprising following the incredible comeback game which he produced in the Broncos season opening 31-19 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but there is a huge difference between playing at home and on the road especially when you’re visiting a dome. Manning’s accuracy and communication with his receivers was off early and often as he threw three interceptions within his first eight attempts of the game (2nd time in his career he threw three interceptions in the first quarter) and those turnovers along with Moreno’s fumble proved to be too much to overcome despite an impressive comeback attempt late by the Broncos.
Ryan (24-36, 219 yards, 2 TD) was extremely efficient from the beginning of the game and did exactly enough late to preserve the victory for the Falcons who now move to 2-0 on the season. He hooked up with Roddy White for eight receptions, 102 yards and a score along with Tony Gonzalez for seven receptions, 70 yards and another score. Ryan iced the game with 2:35 minutes left in the contest when he connected with Julio Jones for a six yard completion that gained Atlanta the necessary yardage for a first down on a third and five which allowed them to deplete the clock. Had the Falcons not gained that first down Manning would have had the opportunity to drive the Broncos down the field for yet another fourth quarter score which could have sent the game into overtime.
This game will unfortunately be talked about and remembered for the excessive penalties and lack of correct calls that the replacement referees made all night on a prime-time, nationally televised stage. If this wasn’t a wake call for the NFL to go back to the bargaining table with the regular officials to get a deal done then who knows what it will take to do so.