I take responsibility or credit - since most of you are probably Falcons fans - for Peyton Manning falling apart Monday night.
What was the difference between Monday and Manning's 209 other games at quarterback? Me. Live. In-person.
Anyone who's ever met me knows I talk a little more quickly than the average person. Not very Southern. I have a good friend who would call me a "damn Yankee": the kind who comes south and stays.
I tell you all that to say I was born in Indiana and grew up nearly all my life rooting for the Colts. I probably have a closer connection with them than any other team. And for the majority of my fandom, there's been one quarterback behind center for Indianapolis: Peyton Williams Manning. No, I didn't know his middle name off the top of my head.
Listen, I know that Manning's thrown three interceptions in the first quarter before. I was in the press box, and they tell you ever last factoid whether it's important or not.
Matt Ryan threw his 100th touchdown Monday. Good stat. In the first half, Manning passed John Elway for third all time on the pass attempts list with 7,255. Interesting coincidence. Broncos running back Willis McGahee had 56 yards in the first quarter, his fourth best first quarter performance ever. I really don't care. Don't mind you telling me, but it's not on the top of my list.
OK, so back to the point. I'm a big Manning fan, but I'd never been to see him live. The rest of the family's not so into sports, and football games are fairly expensive you know.
In all my years of watching Manning, I don't think I've seen him play as poorly as he did in the first four minutes of Monday's game. And just when he was leading the first good drive of the game and I thought he would bounce back, he threw his third interception to a backup who had never had an interception. Welp.
Manning didn't look sharp. You saw this, and if you didn't, good. He underthrew receivers, and he overthrew them. And he looked poor doing it.
He would improve significantly as the game went on, but that's not saying much. Even his touchdown pass required receiver Demaryius Thomas to make one of the most graceful catches I've witnessed.
I had a hard time seeing one of my favorite athletes of all time struggle to the player he used to be, the player he could have been but for a body that failed him. I haven't written off Manning just yet, and I hope he has several productive years ahead of him.
I saw something Monday though, that gave me more pause than before. With the Broncos on the verge of scoring and pulling within one touchdown, Manning made a terrible pass on third and goal. He looked jittery, out of his element. On fourth down, McGahee darted into the end zone. Manning is used to being the man, but that told me this is McGahee's team, at least for know.
The decision to take quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the NFL draft and cut Manning was bandied out endlessly on TV, on the web and over the phone between the Khouli men.
Until the deal was finally done, I kept hoping the Colts would find a way to keep Manning, but in the end, I came to agree with the decision they made to blow up the team and start fresh. As I watched Manning make mistakes, I took consolation in the fact Luck had earned his first career win earlier in the weekend.
All that being said, I never truly gave up on Manning, and I always felt the Manning of old was just around the corner. The one who never saw a 14 or 21-point deficit he couldn't overcome. I still believe in Manning, but I saw with my own eyes what I hoped would never come true.
Now I'm going to give you some random notes from the game. I know. You're wondering how it will be different from what you just read. If you've gotten this far you don't need any more explanation, but I'll say when your team is struggling you have to find other ways to stay entertained:
•So, I sat behind a camera guy for ESPN. The way he turned the thing, and the way his hands moved made he think of the laser guns that Luke and Han fire on the Millennium Falcon. Falcon. Falcons. Get it? Don't worry, there's more cleverness ahead.
•ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said earlier this week in a column that he felt the Falcons was becoming elite. That offense can move the ball, but can you be elite with no running game?
•Some guys in one of the private boxes next to the press box kept looking over into the box as if they knew someone. They even used their binoculars once. I mean, I was sitting right there. I don't know who else they would have been looking for.
•The first quarter lasted an hour. It was terrible. That's all.
•Is it just me or are parachute drops awesome? Every time. Getting into the game for free is awesome, but missing on those goodies that float down so majestically is disappointing.
•I have nothing against the University of Georgia. I don't want to be hated by half the town. However, Knowshon Moreno is terrible.
•I think Broncos coach John Fox was angry literally the entire game.
•They had regular Italian meatballs, chicken meatballs and Thai pork meatballs in the press box. It was amazing.
•Matty Ice really does look cool in the pocket.
•Tony Gonzalez caught his 97th touchdown Monday. Too bad his and Ryan's 100th touchdowns didn't match up.
•Broncos receiver Eric Decker got absolutely decked by Asante Samuel. Decked. Decker. I told you I wasn't done.
Gabriel Khouli is editor of The Covington News and a sports advocate. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.