Manning’s third pick went to Robert McClain, a reserve cornerback who was taking his first snap because Asante Samuel injured his neck on the previous play.
On Sunday, Manning’s younger brother, Eli, threw three interceptions in the first half. But he rallied the New York Giants to a 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
No such luck for big brother.
Samuel returned to the field on Denver’s next possession, whiffing on Willis McGahee’s 31-yard run, but stopping Tamme 1 yard short of a first down to force a punt two snaps later.
On the next-to-last snap of the first quarter, Atlanta linebacker Stephen Nicholas forced a fumble by Knowshon Moreno near the Denver sideline and Sean Weatherspoon recovered for Atlanta — Denver’s fourth turnover.
A scrum began after the Falcons were awarded the ball.
Denver coach John Fox was on the field trying to restore order as players from both teams shoved each other. As Samuel was walking away, Broncos guard Zane Beadles ran into him and knocked him down. Samuel quickly jumped up, and Atlanta defensive end Ray Edwards appeared to throw a punch at a Denver player.
No one was ejected.
After Moreno’s fumble, the Falcons ran 10 plays before Bryant kicked a 42-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead.
Then, Ryan found Gonzalez all alone in the end zone. The tight end who has caught the second-most passes in NFL history was left wide open in the back of the end zone on a crossing route. His quarterback froze the Broncos defense with a nifty play fake before delivering the pass that made it 20-0, punctuated by Gonzalez’s dunk over the goal posts.
The Broncos finally got on the board with 6 seconds left in the half, though it took the replacement officials a second look to get it right. They initially ruled Thomas had been pushed out of bounds without getting both feet down. The replay clearly showed otherwise, Fox challenged the call, and the call was reversed in Denver’s favor.
Another time, the replacements had to huddle just to make sure they knew where to place the ball after a defensive holding penalty on Denver’s Champ Bailey.
The Falcons snapped a six-game losing streak on Mondays, including 0-3 under coach Mike Smith. Their last Monday win came over New Orleans on Dec. 12, 2005.
Notes: The Falcons lost CB Chris Owens to a head injury in the first quarter, further depleting their depth in the secondary. They lost starting CB Brent Grimes to a season-ending injury in Week 1. ... Thomas, who played at nearby Georgia Tech, finished with eight catches for 78 yards. ... Turner had 16 carries for 27 yards until a 15-yard gain on his final run of the night.
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