8:30 PM ET, September 5, 2013
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
DENVER -- Both the NFL opener and Peyton Manning were a little tardy.
It was well worth the wait.
Manning and the Denver Broncos waited eight long months, then another 33 minutes, to get the season started because of a lightning storm.
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After three punts to start things off, Manning threw a record-tying seven touchdown passes, something no one had done in 44 years, in directing Denver to a 49-27 victory over Super Bowl champion Baltimore on Thursday night in a much-anticipated rematch against the team that ended the Broncos' playoff run in January.
Manning connected with his most prized addition, Wes Welker, and former college basketball player Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas for two touchdowns each in piling up the most points scored on the Ravens in their 18-year history.
"I don't like excuses but I do think that lightning delay did slow us down," Manning said. "You guys have seen teams break it down: You come up for the team prayer, you put your hands in and you say, 'Broncos on 3,' and you go out to the field.
"We did it three times tonight," Manning said. "We did it, went back and sat down for 10 minutes, and came back up again. 'Broncos on 3,' now sit down for another 10 minutes. I know they had to deal with it, too, but it took us a while to get started."
Wearing an orange-and-gray glove like the one he wore on that icy January night the previous time these teams met, Manning took a while to get warmed up against a defense that had to replace seven Super Bowl starters.
He ditched the glove when the rain stopped -- and then was unstoppable.
"Peyton had an amazing night," Broncos coach John Fox said. "Peyton's had a lot of amazing nights."
Not like this, though.
Manning is the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw seven TD passes in a game and the first since Joe Kapp for Minnesota against Baltimore on Sept. 28, 1969.
The others read like a who's who of passers who defied the 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust days long before the NFL became so pass-happy: Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda and Y.A. Tittle.
Tom Brady has never done it. Nor Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Steve Young or Terry Bradshaw. Or, for that matter, No. 7 himself, John Elway, who had his binoculars trained on the action from his perch in the luxury seats.
SportsNation: Manning, Broncos roll
Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes in the season opener. Is he the NFL's best? Is Denver? Vote!
"I felt like we had to keep scoring because Baltimore can score at any time," said Manning, who was 27-of-42 for 462 yards with no interceptions for an off-the-charts quarterback rating of 141.1.
"He's phenomenal. To continue to come out every year and put that kind of performance on for us, it's amazing," Julius Thomas said.
All part of a thorough thrashing of the team that put a harsh end to what had looked like a Super Bowl-bound 2012 in Denver. The rematch came nearly eight months after Baltimore beat Denver 38-35 in double overtime on a January night in the same stadium.
The hero on that night was Jacoby Jones, who caught a 70-yard TD pass over Rahim Moore with 31 seconds left to tie it in regulation. This time, his night was cut short when he went back to field a punt in the first half and teammate Brynden Trawick plowed into him, sending him to the sideline with a sprained right knee.
"That's an experience problem; he's an inexperienced guy," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
When the teams finally took the field after the long delay Thursday night, it was clear how much had changed.
Pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil moved from Denver to Baltimore as part of a bizarre, fax-infused contract squabble. Receiver Brandon Stokley also switched sides. The Broncos lost their best defender, Von Miller, to a drug suspension while Baltimore had to rebuild its D after losing emotional leaders Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.
The Ravens suffered another loss of sorts when they were forced to play the season's traditional opener on the road because of a conflict with the Orioles in Baltimore. The NFL hung a Flacco banner above Denver's stadium, but he hardly felt at home.
Armed with a new six-year, $120.6 million contract, he matched the Broncos score for score in the first half and went into the locker room up 17-14 but had to play catch-up after falling behind 35-17 early in the third quarter. His final numbers: 34-of-62 for 362 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
Champs To Chumps
The Ravens' 49-27 loss Thursday night to the Broncos was the worst by a defending Super Bowl champ in a season opener in NFL history. Here's a look:
|* Won Super Bowl after 0-2 start|
-- Elias Sports Bureau
"It was a pretty good game for a while and it got away from us," Flacco said.
It was such a runaway, the Broncos were throwing away touchdowns by the end. Linebacker Danny Trevathan fumbled his pick-six just shy of the goal line, pulling a Leon Lett imitation by celebrating too soon. The ball bounced out of the end zone for a touchback instead of a touchdown.
Denver was ahead 42-17 at that point.
"It was just a young mistake," Trevathan said. "It was kind of selfish. I'm going to take full responsibility. I'm going to grow from it."
Manning's seventh TD pass was a blitz-beater that Demaryius Thomas caught in the left flat and raced up the seam for a 78-yard score that capped Manning's big night.
"It didn't seem like that many," Welker said. "You're just sitting there like, 'That was seven?' Because he's so nonchalant about it."
Flacco could only marvel at Manning's seven TDs.
"That's a sweet way to start a season," Flacco said. "You get ahead throwing that many touchdowns. I mean, shoot, he's almost halfway to 20 already."
Demaryius Thomas finished with five receptions for 161 yards, Julius Thomas had five catches for 110 yards and Welker led the way with nine grabs for 67 yards.
Welker is the first receiver to catch TD passes from both Brady and Manning.
He has said he can't compare the two pre-eminent QBs, saying that's like choosing between Michelangelo and Picasso.
This night was certainly a masterpiece for Manning.
Broncos injuries: KR Trindon Holliday (lower left leg), Eric Decker (right shoulder) and S Omar Bolden (left shoulder). ... Ravens RT Michael Oher left with a sprained ankle. ... Shaun Phillips, who played in Miller's place, had 2 1/2 sacks in his Denver debut. ... The Broncos were without CB Champ Bailey (foot), who's expected back in Week 2 when Peyton Manning and the Broncos travel to New York to face the QB's little brother, Eli.
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: Baltimore Ravens fans pose for a photo outside of Sports Authority Field at Mile High...(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.5||7.5|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||3-5||2-2|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|TD||07:11||Vonta Leach 2 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Justin Tucker Kick)||7||0|
|TD||11:35||Julius Thomas 24 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||7||7|
|TD||08:03||Ray Rice 1 Yd Run (Justin Tucker Kick)||14||7|
|TD||05:34||Julius Thomas 23 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||14||14|
|FG||00:07||Justin Tucker 25 Yd||17||14|
|TD||12:30||Andre Caldwell 28 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||17||21|
|TD||10:28||Wes Welker 5 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||17||28|
|TD||06:37||Wes Welker 2 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||17||35|
|TD||13:13||Demaryius Thomas 26 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||17||42|
|TD||10:28||Marlon Brown 13 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Justin Tucker Kick)||24||42|
|FG||05:29||Justin Tucker 30 Yd||27||42|
|TD||04:30||Demaryius Thomas 78 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||27||49|
This was the 6th-largest season-opening win ever by the Broncos.[+]
Largest Wins In Season Openers - Broncos History
Joe Flacco completed 2-of-8 passes more than 20 yards downfield Thursday, compared with 4-of-7 and 3 touchdowns when these teams last met. Four of Flacco's 6 incompletions on such throws Thursday were overthrown, and no quarterback has more overthrows on such deep passes than Flacco since the start of last season.[+]
Joe Flacco Passing More Than 20 Yards Downfield
Joe Flacco started the game strong, completing 11 of his first 15 passes, with only one incompletion due to an off-target pass. Once he threw his first interception, things fell apart for the Super Bowl MVP. He completed less than 50% of his passes the rest of the way, with 10 off-target passes, all of which were overthrown.
The Ravens started the season without 2 of their top 5 receivers, with Anquan Boldin leaving Baltimore and Dennis Pitta being injured. Jacoby Jones, who finished last season with 406 Rec yds, suffered a right knee sprain tonight vs Broncos, leaving the Ravens with an even more depleted receiving corp.[+]
A Raven Reduction - Most Rec Yds Last Season
Peyton Manning threw 4 touchdowns when the Ravens sent at least 5 pass rushers Thursday, all in the second half. The Ravens sent extra pass rushers 12 times in the 2nd half (2 times in the 1st half), not finding the same success they had against Manning last postseason. **The Ravens defense allowed 259 yards after the catch Thursday (120 YAC from Demaryius Thomas), more than any defense had allowed in a game during the previous 2 seasons. The Broncos offense had a combined 136 yards after the catch in two meetings against the Ravens last season.[+]
Peyton Manning Passing vs 5+ Rushers, Last 2 Games
The Broncos had 4 sacks on Thursday without suspended linebacker Von Miller. The Broncos had just 1 sack in 100 snaps last season with Miller off the field.
Peyton Manning threw 4 touchdowns on throws at least 15 yards downfield, becoming the 3rd quarterback since 2008 to throw 4 such touchdowns in a single game (Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers). Manning's downfield touch has been better since returning from his neck injury, completing 51.1% of his passes at least 15 yards downfield, compared with 41.9% in the 3 seasons prior to the injury.
From Elias: The 22-point loss is the worst in a season opener by a defending Super Bowl champ.[+]
Worst Losses In Season Openers - Defending Super Bowl Champions
Peyton Manning is the only player in NFL history to have three games with 6 passing touchdowns.[+]
Both of Peyton Manning's touchdowns have been thrown at least 15 yards downfield. He had 1 multi-touchdown game on such throws last season, Week 6 against the Chargers on Monday Night Football.
Joe Flacco attempted a league-high 107 passes last season more than 20 such yards downfield, including playoffs, and did not throw an interception. That's the most attempts without a pick in the last five seasons. Flacco was 6 of 10 with 4 TD on those throws against the Broncos last season.[+]
Though the Ravens first touchdown, Joe Flacco has not been under duress on his 8 dropbacks. He is 2-of-2 passing for 31 yards and a touchdown against extra pass rushers.
Vonta Leach: 1st Rec TD since Week 12 in 2009 (Leach was a member of the Texans that season).
Peyton Manning's 24-yard touchdown pass was thrown 21 yards downfield. He has the second-highest completion percentage and tied for the second-most touchdowns on passes more than 20 yards downfield last season.
From Elias: Only 2 players have had 7 TD passes, 0 INT in a game-- Y.A Tittle in 1962 for Giants against Redskins and Peyton Manning in 2013 for Broncos against Ravens
When it comes to facing the Broncos, Ravens QB Joe Flacco has displayed air supremacy on passes of at least 15 air yards... In 4 career games vs Denver (including playoffs), Flacco has completed 52% of such passes, compared to just 39% vs the rest of the NFL... His yards per attempt on these passes is 6 yards higher vs the Broncs, while his TD-to-INT ratio is also dramatically better.[+]
Passes of at Least 15 Air Yards - Joe Flacco NFL Career (Incl. Playoffs)
Peyton Manning dropped back to pass 22 times in the first half of the Divisional Playoffs vs Baltimore and was not sacked or put under duress. In the second half, Manning had 24 dropbacks and was pressured 10 times (41.7 percent). The pressure led to two turnovers, including the interception in overtime that set up the Ravens game-winning field goal.
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