It had been 610 days since Peyton Manning last played a down of football in the regular season. It took one quarter to get back on track, and one touchdown pass to make it No. 400 in his career. Dan Marino and Brett Favre are the only other two quarterbacks in NFL history to reach that mark and it took them 227 and 228 games to do it, respectively. Manning did it in 209 games.
In Manning’s regular season debut with the Denver Broncos, he went 19-for-26 for 253 yards, and 2 touchdowns to help lead the Broncos to a 31-19 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“That guy is a great competitor. I’ve never seen anybody better. – Champ Bailey on Manning (Denver Post)
We can remember Demaryius Thomas stiff arming Ike Taylor last season as he ran in for the game winning touchdown in overtime to beat the Steelers in the wild card round of the playoffs. Sunday night was just a continuation of that as Thomas had 5 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. The score came off of a 71-yard run that did a lot to jar the old memory bank. The Broncos only dressed four receivers on the night. Turns out that’s all they needed. Well, that and the no-huddle.
Much of the talk was about Manning during the game, but the Broncos’ defense can’t be forgotten when it counted most. With the score 25-19 after a Matt Prater field goal in the fourth quarter with three minutes remaining, the Steelers, led by Big Ben Roethlisberger, were ready for revenge. Tracy Porter had other plans. He intercepted Roethlisberger at the two minute warning and ran it back 44 yards for the score. The guy came to the Broncos from New Orleans during the off season, and he wants to get back there as soon as possible. He added 8 tackles and 4 pass deflections which must have made Big Ben at least a little tempted to throw to Champ Bailey’s side.
“I think I made a pretty good statement.” – Tracy Porter on his interception on Roethlisberger (Denver Post)
The Steelers were hungry as they chewed big chunks of time off the clock in the second and third quarters. The best defense against Manning is to keep him off the field, right? The Steelers had the ball for 14:24 seconds of the third quarter and for 9:38 of the second quarter. The Steelers’ third-down conversion rate was down right scary. Roethlisberger completed six third down passes from distances of 9 to 18 yards. The team went 11-for-19 on third down for the night.
All that was a wash with big play after big play down the stretch. The Broncos had five sacks on the night and won the battle in the most important category.
When all is said and done, the Broncos are right where they need to be. 1-0 with 15 left in the regular season.