Broncos feel 'fortunate' to have Koppen at center

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Broncos feel 'fortunate' to have Koppen at center

FOXBORO -- Dan Koppen makes his return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday. And he won't be on the sidelines, as the Denver Broncos probably expected when they signed him not even a month ago.
The Broncos were expecting J.D. Walton to be starting at center against the Patriots. But Walton was placed on injured reserve with a broken and dislocated ankle, meaning Koppen -- the nine-year veteran -- will start under center against the team that released him before the regular season began.
"We haven't been together too long yet, but I'm sure glad we brought him in, because we lost J.D. Walton last week to an ankle fracture," said Broncos coach John Fox in a conference call on Wednesday. "Koppen's a guy that had gotten healthy, and we looked at him and brought him in to work him out. At no point were we thinking he was going to be lining up as the starting center as we head to Foxboro this weekend."
Peyton Manning was obviously disappointed to lose his starting center after just four weeks into the regular season. But Koppen's veteran presence to step right in and replace him has eased the quarterback's mental anguish.
"Well, certainly, I'm sick about J.D. Walton's injury," said Manning in a conference call on Wednesday. "I know how hard he's worked this offseason. He and I have spent a great deal of time together. It was probably the first thing I did when I got here, was getting snaps with J.D. and quarterback-center exchanges being vital. So, I was sick about his injury.
"And when you lose the starting center who's started every game for the past three years, it's very rare that you can replace him with a veteran like Dan, who's played in many huge games and is experienced. So we feel very fortunate. It's always nice having a veteran player -- who's been around winning for his entire career -- on your team."

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.