Sep/18/12 11:36 AM Filed in: Willis McGahee
ATLANTA — When everything else seemed amiss with the Broncos' offense, at least it had Willis McGahee.
The veteran running back proved to be the calming presence — and also a spark — the Broncos needed as he churned out 113 yards on 22 carries, along with two fourth-quarter touchdown runs.
If there was a perception that this offense would be all Peyton Manning all the time, McGahee showed Monday against the Falcons he's willing to handle plenty of the burden.
McGahee apologized to teammates last week for an early fumble against Pittsburgh, a turnover that helped the Steelers keep pace with the Broncos early in the opener.
Here in the Georgia Dome, McGahee was the steady, sure-handed one.
And to think, his night started on his backside.
As part of the Broncos' disastrous opening possession, McGahee bounced off a defender and went backward for a 2-yard loss.
The good sign for McGahee, who will turn 31 next month, is he appeared to get stronger and faster as the game wore on.
He had rushes of 15 and 31 yards late in the first quarter, and eclipsed his week 1 total (of 64 yards) by rushing for 77 yards (on 11 carries) by halftime.
"It just showed we could move the ball on those guys, we just had to settle down," McGahee said.
It was no coincidence that McGahee was a factor on each of the Broncos' touchdown drives, especially in the second half.
On Denver's first fourth-quarter touchdown, McGahee had four carries for 23 yards, including a 2-yard score, his first of the season. Those carries put McGahee over the 100-yard mark for the 31st time in his career.
"It's not bad for someone who's supposed to be 30," McGahee said. "It's not bad for someone who's supposed to be done."
On the drive that brought the Broncos to within six points, at 27-21 late in the fourth, Manning trusted McGahee to take the ball, right up the middle, on fourth down.
McGahee saluted the Atlanta crowd in the far end zone after that score.
"It's great to be able to have someone like that to hand the ball of to when things aren't going as well as you'd like early on," Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley said. "You get the chains moving, you get into a flow. Willis was able to do that for us.