(Sports Network) - Peyton Manning passed his first true test in close to two years with flying colors. An even greater challenge may lie ahead for the comeback quarterback and his new teammates, however, when the Denver Broncos attempt to slow down the high-powered Atlanta Falcons in a marquee Monday night matchup from the Georgia Dome that will wrap up the Week 2 NFL schedule.
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The uniform may have changed, but it very much the same old Manning who threw for nearly 55,000 yards and garnered four league MVP awards over 14 glorious seasons with the Indianapolis Colts in his ballyhooed Denver debut this past week. Making his first regular-season start since 2010, the 36-year-old threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns while spurring a second-half eruption that propelled the Broncos to a thrilling 31-19 victory over the powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers at Sports Authority Field.
Manning worked most of his magic over the final two quarters, in spite of the Steelers having the ball for nearly 18 1/2 minutes by utilizing a keep-away approach that nearly worked to perfection. The 11-time Pro Bowl honoree completed 9-of-12 passes for 155 yards against one of the league's premier defenses after the break, leading the Broncos to 17 points over their first three second-half drives to overcome a 13-7 deficit midway through the third period.
Both of Manning's touchdown strikes also came after intermission, with his 71- yard delivery to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas the 400th of his distinguished career. He also fired a one-yard pass to tight end Jacob Tamme with 9:23 to play that gave Denver a 22-19 lead it would not relinquish.
Denver's defense did its part as well, sacking Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger five times and getting a game-sealing 43-yard interception return touchdown from another new addition -- cornerback Tracy Porter -- with 1:58 remaining.
The unit now gets another difficult task in the form of an Atlanta offense that was flying high in its opener, with quarterback Matt Ryan racking up 299 passing yards and accounting for four touchdowns to spearhead an impressive 40-24 triumph over Kansas City in the usually hostile environment of Arrowhead Stadium.
Ryan threw for three scores and ran in another in directing an Atlanta attack that produced points on each of its first eight possessions and didn't punt until the 3:01 mark of the fourth quarter. Rising star wide receiver Julio Jones was equally as unstoppable, with the 2011 first-round pick registering 108 yards and two touchdowns on six catches.
The Falcons now take their formidable scoring machine back to the Georgia Dome, where the team averaged nearly 30 points per game last year and owns a stellar 26-4 regular-season mark in outings that Ryan has started since 2008.
"They can do it all," Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil said of the Falcons. "They can run, throw the ball, throw screens, slow down the rush. They do a variety of different things. They're a well-coached team."
Atlanta didn't come out of last week's contest unscathed, however. Cornerback Brent Grimes, a Pro Bowl selection in 2010, suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear against the Chiefs, leaving the secondary in a short-handed state as it prepares to face one of the sport's all-time greats in Manning.
"The most important thing is we have to play sound technique and make sure we're in the right place," said Falcons head coach Mike Smith. "If you're in the wrong place by a half-yard, you're going to pay for it. (Manning) has a good understanding of how you're trying to defend him. If you give him pre- snap reads, he's going to know where to go with the football."