After failing to overcome some early mistakes in Week Two, the Denver Broncos will be looking to regroup following the tough loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday, 27-21.
Due to some unforced errors by a perhaps slightly rusty Peyton Manning, the Broncos offense conceded some key plays early in the first quarter, as the Falcons took an early 10-0 lead.
In the first four series on offense, Manning threw three interceptions and running back Knowshon Moreno fumbled in Denver territory.
“Really a tough start," Manning said, following the loss. "I won't make any excuses for it. Each turnover has its own story that no one really wants to hear. I've just got to take care of the ball better."
It was only the second time Manning has thrown three interceptions in the first quarter in his long career.
Manning would battle back. The four-time MVP completed 24 passes on 37 attempts for 241 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas near the end of the second quarter that kept the Broncos in the game.
The Thomas touchdown reception cut into Atlanta’s 20-point lead, and the Broncos would score two unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the game interesting.
"I thought we could find a little momentum there, find some rhythm, which we did," Manning said. "We had a chance to win that game. I think we will learn from it and we'll be better for it."
While the Denver offense looked sharp in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the miscues against Atlanta may be an indication that the offense still needs time to execute better.
The defense, however, appears to be in decent shape.
On the road, the Broncos defense limited the Falcons to just 275 total yards. The Falcons boast a strong collection of offensive weapons, yet Denver rarely seemed rattled by quarterback Matt Ryan, as well as running back Michael Turner, who rushed for over 1,300 yards in 2010 and 2011 but only gained 42 yards on 17 carries.
Denver’s offense is far from a lost cause. Eric Decker was targeted eight times by Manning, but the wide receiver only caught four passes, while Brandon Stokley only caught three of the six passes thrown to him.
Head coach John Fox expects the kinks to be worked out.
“It’s professional football. Our guys will bounce back,” Fox told reporters. “There will be some positive things that we can draw from it. We have a new test, a new challenge this week against the Texans.”
Meanwhile, the division may not be as much of a challenge as many thought before the preseason. The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs both have struggled and are winless.
The San Diego Chargers, who have a history of under-achieving, are the only undefeated team in the AFC West.
The Broncos host the Houston Texans on Sunday in Week Three.