Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 9/13/12
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Coming off a 19-for-26 performance for 253 passing yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in an impressive 31-19 victory over Pittsburgh, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning showed the football world last Sunday that while he might have been playing his first game in two seasons, he is no less dangerous a player. On Monday night when he visits the Georgia Dome, he will face a Falcons defense that is minus a former Pro-Bowl cornerback and that allowed 258 passing yards to Kansas Citys Matt Cassel last week. Falcons head coach Mike Smith knows that his defense will have to be as precise as possible against the Broncos. Weve got to play sound technique and make sure were in the right place because if youre out of place by a half yard, youre going to pay for it, said Smith, who as Jacksonvilles former defensive coordinator was in the same division as the four-time MVP during Mannings long run with Indianapolis. Hes got a very good understanding of how youre trying to defend him. If you give him pre-snap reads, hes going to know where to go with the football. Perhaps few players in NFL history have enjoyed the reputation that Manning has for his smarts and football IQ. For a Falcons team that has suffered its share of breakdowns in the secondary and blown coverages in big games in the past, Manning will provide a special challenge. Trying to hide coverages like you say, hes so smart, all that stuff how to check down -- its like hes played defense before some of the things that he knows, Falcons defensive end John Abraham said. He probably can be a defensive coordinator after hes done compared to offensive coordinator. Ive played him ever since I was in college. He played for Tennessee and I played for South Carolina. Hes been the same since. He hasnt changed. While Abraham is towards the end of his second decade playing against Manning and has a great familiarity with him, Broncos head coach John Fox has learned a great deal about Manning since the quarterback made his choice to play for the Broncos back in the spring after the Colts elected to cut him and rebuild by taking Andrew Luck as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft in April. I think his reputation in this league is very well documented on how hard he prepares mentally and physically, Fox said in a conference call with Atlanta media on Thursday. I think he came into the league that way and is still that way. I think when you see it first-hand, its a little bit different. It probably exceeds the expectations you had just on his reputation so hes done tremendous. Last year the Broncos revamped their offense in midseason when Tim Tebow was named the starter. The Broncos went on to win the AFC West with an offense that emphasized the run and led the league in rushing yards. With Manning, the pass once again is getting more attention. Any time you have a player, whether it was last year or this year, regardless of the position, part of coaching is to put them in the best position to succeed, Fox said. You take input and you look and study what they do well and obviously youre going to put them in those positions. To that end, the Falcons Smith said he sees that Manning has brought with him parts of the Colts former offense. I think some of the concepts that have shown up in the preseason indicate theres some of the Indy passing game, Smith said. And the Falcons will have to defend Manning and every other quarterback they play for the rest of this season without cornerback Brent Grimes, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury last Sunday. Dunta Robinson will take Grimes spot as the right corner and Chris Owens will play in the slot in the nickel package. Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud talked about how losing Grimes will affect the defense. You may have to be more cognizant of certain things here and there, DeCoud said. At the end of the day, were all professional athletes. Ive said this a couple of times: Chris and Dominique (Franks) have a lot of game experience themselves and they have a lot of talent so I dont expect it to be too much of a drop-off. Although, you know, Grimes is one of the best corners in this league and has been one of the best corners in this league for the last few years and theres going to be some step-off but I dont think it will be too drastic. Its all part of the puzzle of defending Manning.
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