Peyton Manning tied a league record with seven touchdowns as the Denver Broncos crushed the Super Bowl champions the Baltimore Ravens 49-27 in the National Football League season opener on Thursday.
The four-time most valuable player became just the sixth player in history to throw seven touchdowns in a game. Manning looked like he is ready to guide Denver to the playoffs just as he did last year in his return from multiple neck surgeries.
“It was a great night. Great atmosphere,” Manning said. “We had to be patient and we knew we could get some shots and our receivers made some big plays.”
Denver also exacted revenge for a 38-35 loss to Baltimore in the American Football Conference (AFC) divisional playoffs in January and they did it in style as the Broncos 22-point win on Thursday was the biggest opening night victory ever over the defending Super Bowl champs.
Five of Manning’s touchdowns came in the second half of the contest at Sports Authority Field which was delayed for 33 minutes before the opening kick off because of bad weather.
Manning joined Joe Kapp, George Blanda, Sid Luckman and Adrian Burk as the lone players in league history to toss seven touchdowns in a game.
He is the first to do it since Kapp in 1969 when the former NFL and Canadian Football League star played for the Minnesota Vikings.
Manning said he is well aware of Kapp’s legacy.
“Joe Kapp. No. 11 from Cal. A Canadian. Kicked the crap out of a guy on YouTube a couple of years ago,” Manning said.
The Broncos turned a three-point halftime deficit into a comfortable 25-point cushion by scoring 28 consecutive points to begin the second half.
“Fortunately we figured it out after halftime,” Denver head coach John Fox said. “We got some new players. So just like every team on opening day there are some things to figure out as you go.”
Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas each caught two touchdown passes for the Broncos, who finished 13-3 last season and had the No. 1 seed in the AFC before being ousted by the Ravens in the playoffs.
Welker finished with nine catches for 67 yards in his first game as a Bronco after spending the past six seasons with New England. The Broncos signed Welker as a free agent.
Demaryius Thomas led all receivers with 161 yards on five catches while Julius Thomas also had five catches for Denver.
“Our defense can answer the bell without some of their top guns,” Manning said. “They were awesome and made a lot of plays.”
The Ravens are still getting used to each other as they lost eight starters from last season. That list includes future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
Baltimore, who beat San Francisco 34-31 to win the Super Bowl, struggled on defense on Thursday by allowing a franchise-record 49 points.
Quarterback Joe Flacco, who signed a six-year, US$120.6 million contract in March to make him the league’s highest paid player, finished 34-of-62 passing for 362 yards.
Flacco also had two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Ray Rice managed just 36 yards and a score on 12 carries for Baltimore.
“We made a number of mistakes,” said John Harbaugh, who has reportedly agreed to a contract extension with the Ravens. “That was the biggest issue. We gave them too many things. We can get better.”
The strangest play of Thursday’s contest saw Denver’s Danny Trevathan pick off a Flacco pass and return it 30 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown.
However, a celebrating Trevathan accidentally let go of the ball just before he reached the goal-line and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback to nullify the touchdown.