DENVER, COLO. – After eight months and a 45-minute weather delay, the Denver Broncos took the field against the defending champion Baltimore Ravens.
After the Ravens beat the Broncos in the AFC Divisional playoffs by what was know as the “Miracle in Mile High” and eventually went on to win the Super Bowl, they started damage control.
Ray Lewis decided to hang up the cleats with one final pregame dance. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin decided to find a new home in San
Francisco. And former Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed found a new team with the Houston Texans. The Ravens are a different team.
And Peyton was ready.
The stage was set. Opening night in Denver. You could feel the excitement.
The game began with fullback Vonta Leach putting the Ravens in front 7-0 with a 2-yard touchdown reception. However, four-time league MVP and 2012 Comeback Player of the Year Peyton Manning went back to being Peyton Manning.
Manning made quick work of being down by connecting with rookie tight end Julian Thomas out of Portland State for two touchdown receptions to make the score 7-14.
Just as the game seemed to be out of control for the Ravens, new addition Wes Welker muffed a punt on his own 1-yard line, giving pro bowl running back Ray Rice an easy touchdown to even the score at 14-14.
The Ravens quickly added a field goal before halftime to go up by 3.
All is in control right?
And then Peyton Manning stepped back on the field.
Manning started the second half by throwing a touchdown to wide receiver Andre Caldwell for 28 yards to put the Broncos up by 7. But this was just Manning getting started.
Wes Welker decided to make his presence known by catching 2 red zones touchdown passes to add to his game high 9 receptions.
Demaryius Thomas also joined the fun with a 26-yard touchdown reception from Manning, making the score 17-42.
By the beginning of the fourth quarter, Peyton Manning had already broken 3 records and thrown for 6 touchdowns. A feat that no quarterback has ever done against the Baltimore Ravens.
But he was not done.
He connected with Demaryius Thomas again on a 78-yard screen pass that put the Broncos up 27-49.
This was Peyton’s night.
Late in the 3rd quarter, in a desperate attempt to come back, Joe Flacco threw an interception to young linebacker Danny Travethan.
A simple catch and run to score an easy 7 points on what some would consider to be an easy pick six.
Travethan intercepted the ball on the Ravens 20 yard line and proceeded to showboat down to the 2 yard line and…well…it happened again.
Travethan dropped the ball in celebration before crossing the goal line, giving the Ravens the ball back on their own 20 yard line.
But this event was lost in the sea of the greatness of Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning tied the record for most touchdown passes in an NFL game, is now the only quarterback to throw 6 or more touchdown passes in 3 games, and has now thrown for 3 touchdown passes in 11 of 17 regular season games for the Broncos.
Manning humbly thanked his team and walked slowly off the field as if nothing had happened. All in a day’s work for one of best quarterbacks this league has ever seen.
The first chapter of the 2013 season has been written. The NFL is back.