On Thursday night, September 5th, the Broncos used the first game of the season to exact sweet revenge on the SuperBowl champion Ravens after a crushing defeat earlier in the year. While some on various networks were speculating that the Ravens looked better at the start of the 2013 season than they did last year, two things became painfully clear: the Ravens have much work to do, and Peyton Manning is ready to chase another title. In putting up historic numbers, 7 TDs and 462 yds, Peyton Manning smirked at critics who questioned whether his age would be a hindrance and defiantly told them “Watch me!”
Peyton set a record for most touchdowns throw in the first game of the season. In Thursday’s performance, Peyton did something that hasn’t been done in 44 years since Joe Kapp’s performance against another football franchise from Baltimore. The last time such an accomplishment was achieved, amassing 3100 passing yards over the course of a year was a league leading achievement. In 2012, passing for 3100 yards made you a middling QB, statistically speaking of course. Yes, the game has changed to a pass happy format, but Peyton’s accomplishment still stands as a relatively monumental feat. Let’s give his achievement some context.
-Peyton by himself threw for more TD’s last night (7) than he and Flacco threw combined (6) in their last meeting.
-Peyton’s 7 TD’s were equivalent to the amount of TD’s thrown by a total of 8 different quarterbacks during Wildcard weekend in the 2012 Postseason.
-Peyton threw for more TD’s (7) than Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick combined to throw (4) in last year’s divisional playoff game (49ers- 45, Packers- 31) that became a Madden-esque touchdown fest.
-Peyton threw for 7 TD’s Thursday night. The top three passing teams from the 2012 season (in order, New Orleans, Detroit, Dallas) all combined to throw for as many TD’s in Week 1 of the 2012 season. New Orleans had 3 TDs, Detroit had 1 TD, and Dallas had 3 TDs.
In throwing these 7 touchdowns, Manning threw no interceptions. That hasn’t been done in 50 years since YA Tittle did that against Washington for the New York Giants on October 28, 1963. The 7 TD performance didn’t just put him in rarefied air in terms of becoming the 6th man to ever achieve that distinction, it also tied him with a few other players for most games with multiple TD’s. He’s tied with Brett Favre with 23 games of 4 TD’s or more, and tied with Drew Brees with 7 games of 5 TD’s or more. He also sits alone as the only player to have 3 games of 6 TD’s or more. Thursday night’s assault on the opposing defense utilized 4 weapons at wide receiver, showing that Peyton loves distributing the ball. Wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker both had 2 TD’s a piece, while Tight End Julius Thomas also had 2 TD’s and WR Andrew Caldwell had 1 TD. When you see the lack of production that the Broncos received from their running game, the gravity of what Peyton did starts to hit you. Denver running backs rushed 23 times for combined for a total of 65 yards; Peyton’s longest TD, 78 yards to Demaryius Thomas, out-gained all of those rushes by 13 yards.
Keep in mind that with no running game, Peyton couldn’t effectively use the play-action. Without that threat and despite all of the frame by frame film analysis, hours of study, schemes drawn up to limit him, and weeks of preparation, they still couldn’t stop Peyton. A pass rush with 5-time Pro Bowler and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs and former Bronco star and 2009 NFL sack leader Elvis Dumervil couldn’t stop Peyton from achieving a passer rating of 141.1, a QBR of 83.6, (if you like ESPN stats) and a precise dissection of the Ravens secondary. He made those two household names look like over-matched collegiate players. Sure they each had a sack and a few QB hits, but it’s immaterial if those hits don’t rattle Peyton and affect his ability to make plays with accuracy and relative ease. When the Ravens beat the Broncos in the playoffs earlier this year, Manning was also sacked 3 times for a loss of 17 yards, but his response Thursday was vastly different. (To be fair, the two situations are vastly different.)
If you didn’t think that Peyton still felt angry, motivated, or harbored resentment after the playoff loss earlier this year, Thursday’s game should tell you different; Manning is out for blood. This performance is evidence not just of the man’s skill at QB but also of the deep passion to win another Super Bowl and be level with his brother in the quest for Super Bowl rings. Let no one question Peyton’s motivation in the face of doubts about his age, questions about moving on from heartbreaking losses, and dealing with the spectres that ended a great season. When he initially signed his contract with Denver last year, many wondered if Peyton was worth such a large sum of money. After Thursday night, I’m sure that some of those questions have been put to rest, as Peyton the man and Peyton the football player responded to the call. He’ll come back down to earth, but Thursday night, Peyton was on cloud 9 in Mile High Stadium.