Interception. Interception. Interception. Three-and-out. Fumble. Three-and-out. Touchdown.
If you feel manic reading it, try watching it.
Those were the first six drives for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos Monday night in Atlanta. It was a dysfunctional night for Manning in his first road start as a Bronco, which resulted in a 27-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
The dysfunction came from how the Denver offense played for a majority of the game, how the Atlanta defense lined up a majority of the game and how the replacement officials administered a majority of the game.
Frankly, the arm strength did not look like it was there early in the contest.
The first interception Manning threw was tipped 26 yards down field but looked like it was dying on the way to the receiver.
The second interception was a 21-yard pass that would’ve short-hopped to tight end Jacob Tamme had Thomas DeCoud not stepped in front of it and picked it off.
The third interception Manning threw was a 25-yard pass intended for receiver Brandon Stokley that the Falcons’ fifth cornerback, Robert McClain, made a good play on, but a pass that also did not appear to have much zip on it.
Through three series, Manning was 4-of-8 for 34 yards with three picks. He followed with 3-for-3 for 15 yards over the next three drives before finally putting a scoring drive together with 4:39 remaining in the opening half.
It was the Eric Decker Show — the only time in this game Decker produced — as he caught three of the next four balls thrown for 35 yards. They were all short passes that moved the chains into Atlanta territory.
A couple more short passes, a holding, a sack and a great Demaryius Thomas toe drag into the end zone for a 17-yard catch later and the Broncos were on the board.
And the manic half came to a close. Manning’s line: 19-13-of-19 for 120 yards, the TD and the three interceptions.
He had almost an identical second half — 11-of-18 for 121 yards — sans the score and the turnovers to finish 24-of-37 for 241 yards. His longest pass of the game was the 18-yarder to Decker on the second play of the first scoring drive.
It is hard to say what to take away from the game in regards to fantasy.
The positives: Willis McGahee was the best player on the field Monday night for the Broncos. He had 11 carries for 77 yards in the first half and finished with 22 for 113 and a score on the ground to go with two catches for 11 yards.
Thomas is the go-to receiver for Manning right now. His ability to take a pass from just around the line of scrimmage and make something out of nothing is the best on the team. He finished with the score, 11 targets and eight catches for 78 yards.
Those two are solid fantasy starters each week.
The negatives: It may be hard to depend on the rest of the lineup.
Decker had eight targets for four catches and 53 yards — most coming on the closing drive of the first half. The target he got to start that drive was the first he had seen in over 25 minutes of action.
Brandon Stokely is the problem for Decker right now. Manning’s familiar receiver was targeted six times. And the tight ends Tamme and Joel Dreessen all but canceled each other out with four and two targets and both grabbing two balls for 13 and 16 yards.
Once Manning gets settled in with the no-huddle in Denver, he should be fine. He might look a little frantic again next week against Houston, but his schedule becomes very fantasy friendly, until at least the start of December, with games against the Raiders, Patriots, Chargers twice, Saints, Bengals, Panthers and Chiefs.
It was not a fun performance to watch from Manning and the Broncos’ offense as a whole, but just knowing that he is healthy and has come through two games having been sacked five times and bounced back is a plus. He has a capable backfield, one stud receiver, a couple of dependable possession guys and two move-the-chains tight ends. He has thrown for at least 240 yards and a score in both games against two pretty good defenses. And after next week the schedule lightens up.
You would like to know the arm strength will get there, but if Thomas continues to be the YAC king, that certainly helps as Manning’s arm does start to strengthen.
Feel good about Manning. Feel good about knowing you probably got him as a steal. And feel good that he still has plenty of fantasy production left in him this season.