So Peyton Manning throws three interceptions in his first three drives against the Atlanta Falcons and suddenly half of the group on the Denver Broncos bandwagon wants to jump off. Fine with me. Leaves me more room to stretch my legs. If you want to look at Manning's terrible first quarter performance and say that he's not the same quarterback as before, that's a valid opinion. Just don't claim that his interceptions had anything to do with any physical deficiency or lack of arm strength.
Everybody wanted to compliment Manning in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he went 19 for 26 and had 253 yards with two touchdowns. What was the difference from last week to this week? For me, it was a great defensive game plan by Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan coupled with some bonehead mental errors by Manning. They baited him and he bought it on his first three offensive drives.
Manning's first interception was a pass that had nowhere to go but into the arms of a Falcons player. William Moore made a great break on the ball, but Manning looked like he stared down his receiver on that play and made it easy to see where he wanted to throw the ball. Manning's second interception was a result of an underthrown pass but the pass rush had pushed Broncos guard Manny Ramirez back close to Manning and I think he simply didn't step into the throw the way he wanted. Again, did he see the Falcons player coming over on that throw? Manning's third interception was a route jumped by Robert McClain just as Brandon Stokley was about to come open. Had McClain not darted over there from his position closer to the sideline to grab the interception, that would have been a touchdown. The pass was on time and on target to the intended receiver.
Perhaps the truth is in the eyes of the beholder, but I just don't see how Manning's arm can be an issue when he completed so many other difficult passes during the game. Unless Manning continues to get picked off at a much higher rate than ever before, I feel like he made three bad decisions instead of three bad throws against the Falcons. I don't know why he felt the need to throw such deep passes, but I suspect that Manning must have gone into the game thinking that the deep pass would be open. I also believe that Mike Nolan, the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, knew this and coached his defense in how to bait Manning.
I also don't buy that the idea that rookie quarterback Brock Osweiler going into the game for a final "Hail Mary" pass was any sort of indictment on how the Broncos feel about Manning's arm strength. When have we ever seen Manning throw a 60-yard bomb (or longer) completely in the air? I don't think that's something he's ever done in the many years I've watched him play. However, Osweiler has the capability of throwing the ball 70 yards in the air. That's likely what would have been needed had the Falcons been forced to punt and the Broncos got the ball back deep in their own territory. That shouldn't be seen in any way of a signal that Manning has deteriorated. He could never do that, and he especially can't do it now at the age of 36.
Manning's arm didn't let him down. It was his vision and his intuition that let him down. He has to be smarter than to throw the ball down the middle of the field three times into a crowded secondary. The route running needs to be spread apart more (go back to the game film and look at how many times receivers seemed to be on top of each other). The play calling needs to be more diverse. There are many things about the Broncos offense that need to be improved. Manning's arm, however, is just fine.
Julie is a featured NFL contributor who writes about the Denver Broncos for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A lifelong football fan, she started following the Broncos after moving to Colorado in 2001.