After week number two of the NFL season, the Denver Broncos' performance can be considered somewhat of a mixed bag.
Their solid play against the Steelers in the opening game had fans and the media singing the praises of Peyton Manning and the revamped Bronco defense.
Before the season began most people had game two in Atlanta penciled in as a potential loss. After the win against Pittsburgh, minds began to shift and a victory against the Falcons was certainly looking like a real possibility.
Monday night, on a national stage, the Broncos had the chance to build on their 1-0 record against a tough playoff team on the road. However, a horrendous start to the first quarter put Denver in a hole that they were unable to dig completely out of.
Here's a look at the headlines and stories to focus on as we head in to the third week of the season for the Broncos.
The Strength of Peyton's Arm
While the health of Manning has been discussed ad nauseam throughout the offseason and into the start of the regular season; after Monday's performance in Atlanta it is obviously still an issue.
Even though his throws have always been somewhat wobbly, there just seems to be more of it happening this season.
Manning began Monday night's game throwing three interceptions on Denver's first three possessions, a tough hole for the Broncos to be in so early in the game.
To further expand on the question of arm strength, Manning did not complete a pass over 20 yards on Monday night; the average completion was 6.5 yards.
It will be tough to consistently win in the NFL going forward without being able to throw the long ball.
Defense Tough against the Run
Denver's performance against the run was perhaps the biggest question mark coming into this season for the Broncos.
The return of a healthy Ty Warren and the addition of rookie Derek Wolfe had fans hoping for a positive upswing for the run defense. Sadly, Warren suffered a torn triceps in the opening week and was lost for the season.
On the brighter side, Wolfe has proven to be an absolute beast and a solid acquisition for the Broncos defense.
On Monday night, Falcon running back Michael Turner was held to only 42 yards on 17 carries on the ground, with a 1.7-yard average. Additionally, 15 of those yards came in garbage time right after the two minute warning.
So far this season, Denver ranks seventh in rush defense, giving up an average of 71 yards per game. That is a huge improvement over last season and if it can continue, will put the Broncos in great position to win games going forward.
McGahee Still Has Some Left in the Tank
A bright spot in the offense for Denver has been the ground game from Willis McGahee. Some said he was done—that he had one foot in retirement. In the first two weeks he has proven that he can still move the chains and make plays in the backfield.
While it was perceived that Denver's new Peyton Manning-based offense would be predominantly pass oriented, McGahee's success on the ground has provided a nice, consistent change of plans.
Monday night against the Falcons, McGahee rushed for 113 yards on 22 carries which included two fourth quarter touchdowns. His average yards per carry was 5.1, a whole two yards more than Atlanta's Michael Turner.
It is certainly clear that Willis McGahee is the No. 1 guy; however, that back-up role is still somewhat cloudy. Both Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball have been underwhelming thus far and need to be more dependable moving forward.
Up next for the Broncos is Houston, another tough team with a brutal defense. The first two weeks the Texans defense has played outstanding; that is very rewarding for me personally, as I have them in two fantasy leagues.
This game will most likely test Denver on both sides of the ball. The Broncos will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss plagued by the drama of the interim referees and a rough first quarter of play on the field.
Being able to play at home should help get the Broncos back together moving forward, and hopefully build on that prior success from Week 1.