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Depleted Falcons secondary works over Peyton Manning

Denver Broncos v Atlanta Falcons

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 17: Robert McClain #27 of the Atlanta Falcons returns a first quarter interception against the Denver Broncos at the Georgia Dome on September 17, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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Peyton Manning against an injury depleted Falcons secondary wasn’t supposed to be a close call.

And in the end, it wasn’t.

A group playing short-handed against one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time came out with a decisive advantage, as the Falcons defensive backs owned the future Hall of Famer in a 27-21 win last night.

Playing without franchised-tagged cornerback Brent Grimes (lost for the season last week with an Achilles tear), losing his replacement Christopher Owens to a head injury in the first quarter and missing Asante Samuel for a part of the game with a neck injury, they still made Manning look confused.

Hopefully it makes a big statement throughout the league,” safety William Moore said, via Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I wouldn’t say we were underestimated or underrated but I feel like we went out there and did our job. We went out there and played some football against, I would say, the best quarterback in the National Football League right now. It was excellent for our secondary.

“We haven’t been together long with Asante coming in, Brent Grimes down. We stepped up man.”

By the end of the game, the Falcons were using corners Dominique Franks (released in final cuts but brought back after the Grimes injury) and Robert McClain (a former Panthers seventh-rounder) alongside pedigreed talents Dunta Robinson and Samuel.

But it was the play of safeties Moore and Thomas DeCoud, who masked their coverages well all night, that had Manning reeling with three first-quarter interceptions.

“I think we were holding our disguises,” DeCoud said. “We were kind of confusing [Manning] a bit. I was kind of surprised that we had him on his heels. He usually has defenses on their heels. We stepped up with it and stayed the course.

“When you go up against a quarterback of the quality of Peyton Manning and you play well like we did I think it is a statement. You can go out and have one of the best quarterbacks in the game reeling a little bit and kind of on his heels, I think it does make a statement as far as the talent that we have.”

It wasn’t a statement many were ready to make two weeks ago, but after creating turnovers on four of the Broncos’ first five possessions, it’s hard to argue with their work now.