NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - INSIDE SLANT
There was no mystery to Peyton Manning's game plan: score and then score some more.
Manning pulled it off to a "T." He tied the NFL record with seven touchdown passes, including three in the third quarter to break open a tight game, and the Denver Broncos pulled away to beat the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens 49-27 Thursday night in the NFL's season-opening showcase.
"You never know what's going to happen in a game," Manning said. "I felt like we had to keep scoring."
And score they did.
Third-year tight end Julius Thomas, shaking off an arrest last week for missing a court hearing on a traffic citation, and free agent addition Wes Welker, atoning for a muffed punt, each caught two of Manning's scoring passes to help ease some of the sting from the Broncos' double-overtime playoff loss to the Ravens in January.
Demaryius Thomas also had two touchdown catches, including the longest of the night, 78 yards.
"Last year was last year," Manning said. "It's a new year for us. It's a good start to a new season. Depending on how the season goes, you can usually expect to see Baltimore again."
Demaryius Thomas finished with five receptions for 161 yards, while Julius Thomas had five catches for 110 yards. Welker's game-high nine catches accounted for 67 yards.
Manning, a four-time MVP who is starting his second season with Denver after playing the bulk of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, completed 27 of 42 passes for 462 yards.
His previous high was six touchdown passes in a game, which he accomplished twice, most recently against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 25, 2004.
"He's phenomenal," Julius Thomas said of Manning, 37. "To continue to come out every year and put that kind of performance on for us, it's amazing."
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was intercepted twice, though he was spared from having the second returned for a touchdown when Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan, celebrating prematurely, simply let the ball drop a yard before he reached the goal line. The ball rolled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback, returning possession to the Ravens at the 20.
"It was a young mistake," said Trevathan, a second-year player who caught grief from teammates and a heated sideline lecture from defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "It was kind of selfish. I'm going to take full responsibility. I'm going to grow from it."
Denver was without pass-rushing star Von Miller, who began serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - NOTES, QUOTES
What we learned Thursday at Mile High:
1. Now starting his second season in Denver, Peyton Manning has taken his comfort level with his surroundings to new heights. Manning has defied critics and let his play put to rest any nagging concerns about continuing his career after a yearlong rehab of neck problems.
2. The Broncos defense passed its first test without two of its top players. Cornerback Champ Bailey sat out with a foot sprain and pass rushing linebacker Von Miller began serving his six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Chris Harris had a key interception playing in place of Bailey and Shaun Phillips, playing in place of Miller, helped give the Broncos an effective pass rush with 2.5 of the team's four sacks.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's incredible. The guy was incredible a year ago. To sit out a whole year (with a neck injury), come to a new city, all new teammates, a very unusual type injury. I don't know where he finished, but it was up there. This was pretty phenomenal, seven touchdown passes." - Broncos head coach John Fox on QB Peyton Manning.
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Broncos QB Peyton Manning tied an NFL single-season record with seven touchdown passes Thursday. The other quarterbacks to throw seven touchdown passes in a game were the Chicago Bears' Sid Luckman in 1943, the Philadelphia Eagles' Adrian Burk in 1954, the Houston Oilers' George Blanda in 1961, the New York Giants' Y.A. Tittle in 1962 and the Minnesota Vikings' Joe Kapp in 1969. Manning has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 26 consecutive games, including playoffs.
--Julius Thomas became the first tight end and fifth Broncos player overall with multiple touchdown catches in a season opener.
-- CB Champ Bailey was listed among the Broncos' inactive players.