ATLANTA (AP) — Peyton Manning's second game with the Denver Broncos looked nothing like his first.
Manning threw interceptions on Denver's first three possessions, and the Broncos could not recover from the poor start in a 27-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
"We put ourselves in a hole," Manning said. "I thought we could find a little momentum there, find some rhythm, which we did. I thought we could give ourselves a chance to win. I never once thought the game was over. It would be difficult."
In a 3-hour, 27-minute game marred by questionable decisions from replacement officials and long clock stoppages, Denver (1-1) had turnovers on four on its first five possessions, but the Falcons (2-0) didn't put the game away until they converted a third down with 2 minutes remaining and ran out the clock.
Manning, the NFL's only four-time MVP, completed 24 of 37 for 241 yards, one touchdown, the three picks and a 58.5 passer rating.
"You know he is going to get better," Denver coach John Fox said. "I think we learned a lot about our team tonight and realizing you can't be minus-4 in the turnover ratio and expect to win many games."
The Broncos got a big boost from running back Willis McGahee, who finished with 113 yards on 22 carries. McGahee scored two 2-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter as Manning tried to rally Denver from a 20-point deficit.
Demaryius Thomas finished with 78 yards receiving on eight catches, including a 17-yard TD that cut the lead to 20-7 with 6 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Broncos' franchise dropped to 7-26 in Monday road games.
A week after he won his Denver debut with a home victory over Pittsburgh, Manning looked to be suffering from a wobbly release on his passing attempts, and the raucous Georgia Dome crowd of 70,427 made it tough for him to communicate with his teammates.
The last time Manning threw three interceptions in the first quarter was in Indianapolis' 23-21 loss at San Diego on Nov. 11, 2007.
It was an uncharacteristic prime time start for the four-time NFL MVP, who dropped to 11-4 on Mondays.
The poor start doomed him.
On the game's third play from scrimmage, Manning threw into triple coverage to Jacob Tamme, but Falcons strong safety William Moore stepped in front of the tight end for an interception.
Moore ran down the left sideline 33 yards before Orlando Franklin tackled him at the 1.
Falcons running back Michael Turner soon jumped over a stack of Atlanta and Denver linemen to cross the ball over the goal line for a 7-0 lead with 13:20 left in the first quarter.
On Manning's next possession, free safety Thomas DeCoud picked him off for a 15-yard return. After Julio Jones dropped what would have been a 19-yard touchdown pass from Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the left corner of the end zone, Matt Bryant followed with a 37-yard field goal to make it 10-0 at the 9:46 mark.