If Peyton Manning had been intercepted once Monday on a pass down the seam, it would have been forgotten -- especially since the Falcons' first pickoff was on the third play of the game. If he'd been intercepted twice on similar throws, it would have raised eyebrows. But three was hard to ignore and impossible to overcome for the Broncos, who dug themselves a 20-0 second-quarter hole and never recovered in a 27-21 loss.
Manning quickly dismissed the notion that his errant throws were caused by limitations stemming from his four neck surgeries in 2011.
"Decision making," he said when asked about what caused the interceptions. "Three poor decisions, three throws into coverage. I just have to be able to eliminate those."
Manning's interceptions weren't even the end of the Broncos' turnover tale; running back Knowshon Moreno lost a fumble late in the first quarter -- the second lost fumble for Denver runners in the first two weeks. But those were enough to nullify a sustained comeback effort that saw the Broncos outgain the Falcons by 61 yards, amass two more first downs and average 0.8 more yards per play.
If the Broncos think they are seeing a rerun, they could be forgiven, because the first quarter looked much like some junctures toward the end of the 2011 season.
Sloppiness doomed the Broncos late last year with Tim Tebow at the controls, when the Broncos turned over the football nine times in their last three regular-season games. With five in the first two games of this year, the Broncos haven't remedied the problem, even with changes at quarterback, tight end and in the entire offensive scheme itself.
But the difference is that in those three games last season, only once did the Broncos have a chance to win at the end -- and that was because their defense only surrendered seven points, to the Kansas City Chiefs. Manning was able to guide his team back, and that's the life raft to which the Broncos will cling as as Week 3 begins.
"Usually when you turn the ball over four times, you don't have a chance to win the game," Manning said. "We did fight back and had a chance to win in the end, but in the end I put our team in too far of a hole."
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