Peyton Manning matched an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a single game as the Denver Broncos throttled the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens 49-27 in the league’s regular season opener.
Manning joins a group of just six quarterbacks to have thrown for seven touchdowns in a game and is the first to do so since 1969. Sid Luckman (CHI, 1943), Adrian Burk (PHI, 1954), George Blanda (HOU, 1961), Y.A. Tittle (NYG, 1962) and Joe Kapp (MIN, 1969) are the only other quarterbacks to accomplish the feat. According to Randall Liu of the league’s communications staff, Manning joins Tittle as just the second to throw seven touchdowns without an interception.
It was the third time in Manning’s career he had thrown for at least six touchdowns in a game and the first time since 2004.
Manning looked completely in command of the Broncos’ offense and frequently made use of new weapons Julius Thomas and Wes Welker. Manning connected twice with Thomas in the first half for scores but it was the Ravens that took a 17-14 lead into the break.
Joe Flacco connected with Vonta Leach on a 2-yard touchdown pass and Ray Rice scored from 1-yard out as the game was even at 14-14 in the second quarter. The Ravens squandered an opportunity to add another touchdown when Dallas Clark dropped a sure score that forced Baltimore to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Justin Tucker and only a three point cushion at the break.
On the opening drive of the second half, Manning led the Broncos on a lightning quick (no pun intended) scoring drive. The Broncos went 80 yards in six plays with Manning connecting with Andre Caldwell for a 28-yard touchdown to put Denver ahead 21-17.
Shaun Phillips sacked Flacco on third down to force a three-and-out for the Ravens and – as they did in January’s playoff match-up with Baltimore – the Broncos special teams unit came up with a big play. David Bruton blocked a punt from Sam Koch that gave Denver possession at the Ravens 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Manning hit Wes Welker for a 5-yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 28-17 lead. Another three-and-out from Baltimore gave the ball back to Manning and another touchdown soon followed. Denver marched 58 yards in nine plays with Manning and Welker hooking up again on a 2-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos full control.
Manning’s sixth touchdown was a beautiful 26-yard strike over the outside shoulder of Demaryius Thomas to put Denver up 42-17 early in the fourth quarter.
A mistake by Denver allowed Baltimore to keep hope alive briefly. Linebacker Danny Trevathan intercepted Flacco and returned it for a would-be touchdown except he decided to pull a DeSean Jackson and drop the ball on the turf before crossing the goal line and the play went for a touchback to give the ball back to Baltimore. The Ravens finally responded to the gift of an extra possession as Flacco guided Baltimore on an 80-yard touchdown drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown.
Baltimore added another field goal on their ensuing possession to get within two scores with just over five minutes to play. But Manning shut down any hopes of a Ravens comeback. On 3rd and 8 and Denver trying to run down the clock, Manning threw a screen pass to Demaryius Thomas that broke wide open as Thomas raced 78 yards for the record tying score.
It’s just one game but Denver looks like their certainly belong as Super Bowl contenders. The Ravens look like a team searching for answers.