The 2012 Denver Broncos abruptly changed course from the season before. Coming off an 8-8 record and their first playoff win in many years, the Denver Broncos acquired free agent quarterback Peyton Manning and traded Tim Tebow to the New York Jets. Did the Broncos sign the MVP edition of Peyton? Or, Denver sign some sort of injured Manning-light that would cause Broncos Country to second-guess John Elway in just his second year? Nobody knew.
The Broncos faced Atlanta in just Manning's second game with Denver. The previous week, in Peyton's first game as Broncos quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Manning got off to a slow start, throwing no touchdowns in the first half. Peyton later found his mojo in the second half, tossing two touchdowns - one for 71-yards to Demaryius Thomas. Broncos fans were encouraged, but it wasn't the dominant performance that had vanquished Denver's playoff hopes in consecutive years nearly a decade prior.
Peyton's first road game as a Bronco didn't start off well. On Denver's first possession, Peyton chucked an interception that was returned to the Broncos 1-yard line. The Falcons scored with a 1-yard Michael Turner run.
On the Broncos next offensi... Interception thrown by Manning. Aided by a facemask penalty by Denver's Rahim Moore, the Falcons moved the ball into range and kicked a 37-yarder. Denver was down 10-0 and the game had just begun.
It couldn't get worse, could i... Interception, Manning. Three possessions and three interceptions thrown by the Broncos new quarterback. Thankfully, the Broncos defense would hold the Falcons on that and two subsequent possessions. However, the turnover extravaganza wasn't yet done. Maybe Manning's neck was going to be an issue. Maybe Denver shouldn't have traded Tebow.
Remember Knowshon Moreno? Before he was the reliable rushing machine that helped the Broncos to their AFC Championship in 2013, he was the unproven back that once fell off an exercise bike. With 13-seconds to go in the first quarter, Moreno, too, fumbled one to the turf. Atlanta converted the Denver's fourth turnover into another field goal.
Remember Tony Gonzalez? The lone CBS commentator that picked the Broncos to win Super Bowl 50? After an unproductive Broncos drive, Broncos corner Tony Carter kept an Atlanta drive alive with a phantom pass interference penalty that led to a 1-yard Gonzalez touchdown.
With just :14 seconds to go in the first half, Peyton finally hit Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown. Outscored 20-7, the Denver Broncos called it a half. The offensive production in the third quarter didn't get any better with Peyton's bunch scoring no points and the defense allowing another Matt Ryan touchdown.
Like the week before against the Steelers, the Denver Broncos turned it on in the fourth quarter. Two Willis McGahee rushing touchdowns pulled Denver within 6, but the Falcons were able to convert on their final possession and run out the clock.
So why look back on this horrible game?
Simply put, the 2016 Denver Broncos need to win the turnover battle as they've done thus far into the season. A rusty Peyton Manning would have benefited from this defense as he did in 2015. Matt Ryan chucks the ball all over the field and it's incumbent upon the Denver Broncos to make him and the Atlanta Falcons pay. Productive offenses win games, but as the 2013 Seattle Seahawks taught the 2015 Broncos, defense wins championships. It's a hard lesson to learn, but I know the Denver Broncos are just the folks to teach it to the Atlanta Falcons.