If you tuned on to NBC last night hoping to see a tightly contested first game of the 2013 NFL season you were highly disappointed. However if you tuned in to watch Peyton Manning make history, and lead his team to what could be one of the more impressive wins of the season then you got what you watched for. The Denver Broncos who were looking to get revenge on the defending Super Bowl champions the Baltimore Ravens simply dominated Joe Flacco & Co. last night as they would go on to get the first victory of the 2013 season by a score of 49-27.
Starting with a 34 minute weather delay (lightning/rain) both teams were anxious to get things started. In the first half we had more of a contest with both teams scoring early, and playing with a high level of urgency on defense despite missing key pieces. The Ravens who boast a defense this season with many young players were missing two future HOF defenders that led them for years: Ray Lewis, & Ed Reed (also missing tight end Dennis Pitta on offense). And the Broncos were without two impact players as well in pro-bowl corner Champ Bailey (arguably a future HOFer), and sensational 4th year Line backer Von Miller (18.5 sacks in 2012, 3rd in the NFL).
Combined with the missing pieces, the game had it's share of miscues as we saw Ravens receiver/return specialist Jacoby Jones get blown up by his own teammate on a punt return attempt which resulted in bad field position for the Ravens. This also led to an early exit for Jones who suffered a sprained knee. On the other side Slot-King Wes Welker the Broncos newest addition to the receiving core muffed a punt which led to a turnover. As the first half came to a close the Ravens who were able to take a short 17-14 lead had no idea what would come their way in the second act of this horror show (at least it was for the Ravens secondary).
In an onslaught that started in the 2nd QTR Peyton Manning started his 2013 campaign with a bang. In the usual Peyton Manning like fashion he was dissecting the opposing defense from the line of scrimmage, making key throws, introducing us to new impact players (tight end Julius Thomas: 5 rec, 110 yards, & 2 tds), and most importantly scoring touchdowns. As if these two played their entire careers together Manning's connection with Wes Welker (9 rec, 67 yards, & 2 tds) was on point as the two seemed to click right away on 3rd downs, and in the redzone where Welker would remind us why the New England Patriots are missing such a vital piece to their offense.
Out of the two outside threats Peyton Manning helped turned into stars last season it was Demaryius Thomas (5 rec, 161 yards, & 2 tds) who would continue his big time play as receiver Eric Decker failed to be consistent with pass catching. However that would prove not to be an issue as Super Manning (Think it could stick?) would go on to put up 5 touchdowns, and over 300 yards in the second half alone following his 2 touchdown effort in the 1st giving him 7 total on the night. A feat last reached by Minnesota Vikings QB Joe Kapp vs the Baltimore Colts on Sept. 28, 1969. Manning now joins the "7 Touchdowns in a single game club" with the likes of Joe Kapp, Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda, & Y.A. Tittle.
And with all the passing Peyton Manning did last night going 27/42 comp, & posting 462 yards he was sharp enough not to throw a single interception. That's right "The Sheriff" threw over 40 times, completed over 20 of his attempts, threw for over 400 yards, put up 7 touchdowns, and not once did he give the ball up to the opposing defense. That might be the most impressive stat of Manning's historic performance.
On the other side of the scoreboard the Ravens second half didn't go as planned. The Broncos defense would force 2 turnovers to go with Joe Flacco's (34/62 comp, 362 yards, 2 tds, & 2 interceptions) first half interception. Head coach John Harbaugh after the game talked about the mistakes his team made on the field, and miscommunication is one of the factors that was talked about. Something that probably wouldn't come into question with a Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed leading the way. However these are new times for Baltimore, those two are gone, and last night it showed in full force.
The Broncos defense not only did a great job of generating pressure without Von Miller, but they also shut down pro-bowl running back Ray Rice (12 carries, 36 yards, & 1 td) forcing the Ravens to play catch up football with the passing game the rest of the way. Catching up may have seemed doable until you remembered number 18 is the QB for the other team, and he's bringing back toucdowns like they were out of style.
The Denver Broncos were in rare mid season form last night. The Ravens who looked as if they were in the game early on never really stood a chance. As the Broncos look to capitalize on this early season momentum (Week 2 at the New York Giants) if there is one thing we've learned so far it's that Peyton Manning is still really really good. Or maybe he's better? And his arm that people felt may be too old looked as timely, and football ready as it could be putting up all those touchdowns. For the Ravens it's back to the drawing board, and some intense film sessions as they diagnose what's wrong already in the earliest portion of their regular season.