LOS ANGELES, September 5, 2013—The offseason is over. The nightmare is over. The waiting is over.
The National Football League is back. Peyton Manning is certainly back.
Football is perfection, and perfection does not require hyperbole.
The 2012 world champion Baltimore Ravens traveled to Denver to take on the Broncos in a rematch of their epic playoff game from seven months ago. With 30 seconds remaining, the Broncos were on their way tot he AFC Title Game. Then came the Baltimore miracle, as Joe Flacco’s Hail Mary was answered. A game tied after the second, third, fourth, and fifth quarters saw Baltimore win in double overtime. Now, seven months later, Denver was burning for revenge.
With Ray Lewis retired, this will be the first time since 1995 that somebody else will have to do the pregame screaming on the Baltimore sideline.
“What time is it? Game time! Any dogs in the house? Ruff ruff ruff!”
As for Denver, they are still led by one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever pick up a football, signal caller Peyton Manning.
The 2012 Super Bowl was delayed in the third quarter by a power failure in the stadium. The 2013 season opener was delayed before kickoff due to a lightning storm. Yet the agonizing offseason did end, and football did return.
With heavy rain coming down, both offenses began tentatively. On the second Baltimore possession, Flacco completed a 29 yard pass. On 3rd and 10 from the Denver 13, Flacco found Torrey Smith short of the marker, Smith bulled his way through a tackler and got just past the marker. On the next play Flacco found Vonte Leach for a two yard touchdown to complete the 80 yard drive as the Ravens had the first score of the 2013 season and a 7-0 lead.
Denver could not get anything going on offense but with 11:40 left in the half Flacco was intercepted by Chris Harris at the Denver 24. One play was enough for Manning to go deep to Julius Thomas for the tying touchdown. Denver returned the favor with eight minutes left in the half when Wes Welker fumbled a punt inside his own five yard line. Baltimore recovered at the two and Ray Rice leapt a Denver defender one play later to put the Ravens back on top, 14-7. Manning brought the Broncos right back, as a catch and run to Julius Thomas for 44 yards was followed by a 23-yard touchdown pass to Thomas to tie the game again, 14-14.
With ten seconds left in the half, a sure touchdown pass was dropped at the goal line. Instead the Ravens settled for a 35-yard Justin Tucker field goal to take a 17-14 lead into the locker rooms.
Denver got a break early in the third quarter when a 3rd and 9 pass was ruled a completion even though the ball hit the ground. Manning snapped the ball on the next play before John Harbaugh could challenge the call. Rather than a punt, two plays later Manning went to Andre Caldwell for a 28-yard touchdown to put the Broncos up 21-17. Special teams proved critical when Baltiore then suffered a blocked punt, giving Denver the ball at the Baltimore ten yard line. Manning hit Welker for the touchdown as the Broncos now had a 28-17 lead.
The tight game was broken wide open as now the Broncos were clicking on all cylinders. Manning threw his fifth touchdown pass, a sort toss to Wes Welker. Denver had a commanding 35-17 lead, and 6 1/2 minutes still remained in the third quarter.
The only four time NFL MVP continued his passing clinic in the fourth quarter. 2012 saw him come up just short of his fifth NFL MVP, but games like this one make a strong opening statement. His career-tying sixth touchdown pass went to Thomas as Denver was now romping 42-17.
While Baltimore is not the same without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, football does not tolerate excuses. Denver played this game without the injured Champ Bailey and the suspended Von Miller. The Broncos are only going to get better when these guys return, which should scare anyone in the league who saw this season opener.
Peyton Manning is a perfectionist, and he will always look for something to improve on. He found it early in the fourth quarter in a game that was no longer a contest. Flacco was intercepted by Trevathan, who had a clear path to the end zone. Trevathan did his Leon Lett impersonation, showboating with the ball before crossing the goal line. Without being touched, a gift touchdown was instead a fumble and a touchback. When a team is winning by 25 points, a blunder like that leads to a mild ribbing rather than permanent goat status. Trevathan will not make that mistake again. Instead of a 49-17 Denver lead, the Broncos only led 42-24 when Flacco threw another touchdown pass.
Baltimore tacked on a field goal, but there would be no miracle comeback. From the Denver 20, with 4 1/2 minutes left in the game, Manning salted away the game and entered the NFL record book. He became only the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw seven touchdown passes in a game, and the first one since Joe Kapp in 1969. A simple swing pass to Thomas saw Thomas outrace everybody for an 80 yard exclamation point.
Flacco would finish 34 of 62 for 362 yards and a couple of touchdown passes, but two costly interceptions. Yet those very good numbers paled in comparison to Manning, who was simply ridiculous. He went 26 for 41 for 452 yards, seven touchdown passes, and zero interceptions. This was a career game for him, which says a ton given his first ballot Hall of Fame career. The Broncos won 49-27 and got their revenge for last year.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities.
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