KUSA - Peyton Manning came out of halftime Thursday night and jumped on the Baltimore Ravens for three touchdowns in less than 8½ minutes en route to a 49-27 victory.
Manning finished with a Broncos' record seven touchdown passes (five in the second half) and led a third-quarter barrage that took Denver from a 17-14 halftime deficit to a 35-17 lead in three quick possessions. He tied the NFL record for TDs in a game, joining five others in league history to achieve the feat. The last player to do it was Minnesota's Joe Kapp in 1969 against the Baltimore Colts.
"It's fun to play quarterback when you have a lot of guys working hard for you," Manning said. "You never know what's going to happen in a game. I felt like we had to keep scoring because
Baltimore has an explosive offense."
The season-opening victory in front of 76,977 fans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High was a bit of redemption for the Broncos, who were knocked out of the playoffs last season by the Ravens. After waiting 235 days for the rematch against Baltimore, not even a little 33-minute weather delay could quell the excitement for the NFL opener.
After Denver's swift 80-yard, six-play scoring drive on the first possession of the third quarter to take a 21-17 lead, the Broncos' David Bruton blocked a Ravens punt and set up the offense at the Baltimore 5-yard line. Manning connected with Wes Welker for a 28-17 lead 4½ minutes into the second half.
Manning's 5-yard toss to Welker was the duo's first scoring pass since Welker joined the Broncos in the offseason. It also was Manning's fourth of game, tying an NFL record with 23 games with at least four touchdown passes (also matched by Brett Favre) and it was Manning's seventh game with five TDs, which ties Drew Brees' NFL record. Manning threw his fifth TD pass of the game, again to Welker, as Denver claimed a 35-17 lead with 6:37 left in the third quarter.
"We wanted to play an uptempo game," Manning said. "It still comes down to the execution, and the execution got better there late in the game."
Manning, whose first two TD passes were to tight end Julius Thomas in the first half, finished 27-of-42 passing for 462 yards. The last time he had six TD passes in a game was 2004 at Detroit. The record-breaker was a 78-yard play to Demaryius Thomas on third down for a 49-27 lead late in the fourth quarter. Manning as 11-of-19 for 160 yards passing in the first two quarters Thursday night.
"Incredible," Broncos coach John Fox said of Manning's night. "But he was pretty incredible last year, too."
Welker's debut culminated in nine catches for 67 yards; Julius Thomas finished with 110 yards on five receptions; and Demaryius Thomas had 110 yards on five catches. All three had two TD catches. However, Denver's running game struggled, led by Knowshon Moreno's 28 yards on nine carries.
"We just want to find the right matchups. To continue to come out every year put together that kind of performance is amazing," Julius Thomas said of Manning.
All of that helped the Broncos forget about linebacker Danny Trevathan losing a touchdown when he dropped the ball before crossing the goal line on an interception return in the fourth quarter.
"It was just a young mistake," Trevathan said. "It was kind of selfish. ... there was some heated stuff on the sideline with (defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio) and you know, I needed that."
The win spoiled the returns of former Broncos Elvis Dumervil and Brandon Stokley, who joined the Ravens in the offseason.
The Ravens pushed 80 yards on their first drive, which took just 10 plays for a 7-0 lead with 7:11 to play in the first when Joe Flacco found Vonta Leach on a 2-yard pass to cap the drive in which Flacco had plenty of time to find receivers. He seemed to move through the Broncos' defense in the first half as the Ravens finished with 230 total yards in half to the Broncos' 175.
Flacco finished 34-of-62 passing for 362 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half. He struggled after receiver Jacoby Jones had to leave the game in the second quarter because of a knee sprain.
Denver next plays Sept. 15 at the New York Giants as the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli, square off again. The Broncos' next home game is a Monday night affair - Sept. 23 against the Oakland Raiders.
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