On football's opening night, the NFL got a taste of what Peyton Manning and the 2013 Denver Broncos have in store for this league.
Demaryius Thomas: two touchdowns. Wes Welker: two touchdowns. Julius Thomas: two touchdowns. Andre Caldwell: one touchdown.
Peyton Manning: seven touchdowns.
No NFL quarterback had thrown seven touchdowns without an interception in 44 years.
Manning's performance carried the Broncos to a 49-27 blowout against the Super Bowl champions, the team that knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs eight months ago on a frozen Mile High Stadium turf. The Broncos couldn't fumble or bumble away the game if they tried - Wes Welker muffed a punt at the five-yard line that resulted in seven Ravens points in the first half. Danny Trevathan inexplicably dropped the football a yard before entering the end zone on what should have been a pick-six; instead the touchback resulted in a 14-point swing.
But Manning carried on.
Three players who had never previously scored a touchdown for the Denver Broncos all found the end zone in Denver's 2013 regular season opener against the Baltimore Ravens, proving that the Broncos are far more than a three-trick pony. Julius Thomas emerged as a threat with his five-reception, two-touchdown night.
Denver's two Thomases (Demaryius, Julius) finished with 10 catches, 271 yards, and 4 touchdowns. #Broncos— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) September 6, 2013
Manning finished 26 of 41 for 462 yards while throwing no interceptions. His record-setting night earned him a 141.1 passer rating.
Joe Flacco threw two interceptions in the loss while also tossing two touchdowns, as Broncos defenders harried his receivers most of the night. Denver's impressive coverage, led by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris Jr., allowed a pass rush that was missing Von Miller enough time to get to Flacco for four sacks while forcing four fumbles. The 2012 Super Bowl MVP completed 34 of 62 passes, forced to throw as the Ravens were heavily behind most of the night, tallying 362 yards for a 69.4 passer rating.
Ravens defensive end Elvis Dumervil had one sack in his return to Denver, but he was called offsides on a play that saw Demaryius Thomas take a short Manning screen 78 yards to the end zone late in the fourth quarter. The penalty was declined.
Denver's domination of the Ravens was absolute, and it was absolutely satisfying. The 49 points surrendered by the Ravens was the most in their franchise's history.
That's the first of many records Peyton Manning is looking to break this season. Despite a Hall of Fame career and pages already written in the record books, at 37 years old, the NFL's greatest quarterback composer is poised to make 2013 his magnum opus.