Peyton Manning didn't look right.
Through the first half, he was sacked three times and only threw 106 yards, including a few end zone overthrows very atypical of record-setting Peyton. The offensive line wasn't doing him any favors (hence three sacks), and the running game also wasn't taking any of the pressure off (C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman combined for 25 yards on nine carries through two quarters). But Peyton didn't look right. There was no overlooking it.
It wasn't a Gary Kubiak-led run-first offense; it was the usual Peyton no-huddle, throw it, throw it, throw it offense we've become accustomed to. Only without the touchdowns.
Credit the Ravens' defense for being its perennial stifling self, but share concern about Denver's ability to execute its offense with Manning not looking right.
It got worse before it got better. Peyton targeted Jordan Norwood on the first 3rd down of the second half, and Baltimore's Jimmy Smith made an all-too-easy bobbled-pass interception, returning it to the end zone for a touchdown. The Broncos were suddenly behind, 10-9, as Denver's offense could not get anything going.
Manning's passer rating dropped from 66.4 at halftime to 49.3 after that series.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 13, 2015
Peyton finished 24/40 for 175 yards, one interception, no touchdowns, and a 59.9 passer rating.
The Broncos defense, on the other hand, was electrifying. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was hurried and hustled throughout the first quarter, tallying a net of -1 passing yards midway through the 2nd quarter. In the 3rd quarter, Denver's defense was able to match Baltimore's with a pick-six of their own, an impressive grab by Aqib Talib with a better run-after-the-catch.
That INT marked Broncos CB Aqib Talib's 7th "Pick Six" since 2009, marking the most in the NFL during that time.— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) September 13, 2015
The first half was full of 40-to-yard field goals. After a 14-play from Manning and company stalled just beyond midfield, Brandon McManus drilled a 57-yard field goal to give the Broncos a first-quarter 3-0 lead. It wasn't long before McManus was lining up long again, this time sailing a 56-yard attempt through the uprights to give the Broncos a 6-0 lead. Midway through the 2nd quarter, the Ravens' Justin Tucker replied in kind with a 52-yard field goal, making it 6-3 Broncos with six minutes to play in the half.
In other words, the Broncos' quarterback and kicker basically switched roles.
Broncos kicker has 16 fantasy points. Broncos quarterback has 2 fantasy points.— Chris Chase (@ChrisChaseFTW) September 13, 2015
In the fourth quarter, the Broncos offense finally found a bit of rhythm - a short-yardage, clock-killing rhythm that actually ended up being the longest drive in Peyton Manning's professional career (over 10 minutes). Then, Denver's D had to hold Joe Flacco and the Ravens without a touchdown. Baltimore marched down the field, into Denver's red zone, but a clutch Darian Stewart interception in the end zone sealed the game, 19-13.
For the Broncos, questions around Peyton Manning will be asked all week long (thankfully it's a short one, with the Kansas City Chiefs on the docket Thursday night). Two years ago, Peyton threw seven touchdowns against the Ravens in a season opener. Today he threw zero.
A 1-0 start can bury a lot of those concerns. Go Broncos!