The moment Peyton Manning ran onto the field on Sunday night is something fans will never forget. The nationally televised prime-time atmosphere always makes for a good time, but throw in Manning’s first game as a Denver Bronco and it becomes one of those events where people save their ticket stubs.
Pre-game activities started early for thousands of Denver fans. The home opener for any season adds some excitement and flair to tailgating rituals, but things got taken up a notch for the beginning of the Manning era. Despite the late kickoff time several parking lots were packed early in the afternoon. Those tailgaters started funneling into the stadium a little bit earlier than usual to see the new Denver Quarterback, and by the time the national anthem began there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
It was a big day in the history of the franchise. Hope has been revived in a team that has been also-rans for several seasons, and the result on the scoreboard made everyone believe this year can be very special. A statement was made to the nation last night. The Denver Broncos are a force to be reckoned with.
Here are some thoughts on the Denver Broncos victory over the Steelers:
- Peyton Freaking Manning! He finished the game 19 for 26 passing with 253 yards and two touchdowns. His rating for the game was 129.2. Any way you look at it, Manning was spectacular. He made all the throws and led the offense with impressive authority. He took several big hits and won the game with his play in crunch time. You won’t be seeing any more stories about what Manning can’t do because he just showed the entire country that he can still do it all.
- The defense gave up 284 yards and allowed Pittsburgh to convert 11 of 19 third downs. Despite those numbers they did a great job limiting the Steelers to field goals and they came up with the one key turnover when they needed it. There is still some work to be done on the defensive side of the ball but they flashed some of their potential.
- Denver’s running game was surprisingly effective despite going up against one of the better defenses in the league over the last few years. The work load was split amongst several running backs and Manning himself and they totaled 94 yards. It looks like Tebow wasn’t the sole reason for the success of the running game last year after all.
- The Steelers are going to start having nightmares about Demaryius Thomas. The man who torched them in the playoffs last year took a short Manning pass and went 71 yards for the score in the third quarter. It is becoming common to see Thomas running free down the sideline with Pittsburgh defenders in his wake.
- Denver lost the time of possession battle by a wide margin on Sunday night. The biggest reason behind that was the Steelers ability to consistently convert third downs and the impressive play of Ben Roethlisberger. He deserves a lot of credit for keeping Pittsburgh in the game.
- The home crowd was electric all night and gave the Broncos an edge on the field. It seems the old Mile High home field advantage is back.
- The replacement refs struggled to keep pace with the no huddle offenses employed by both teams and they got bogged down during the Pittsburgh coaches’ challenge. The Steelers shouldn’t have been awarded the challenge since Manning quickly ran another play but the refs allowed it anyways. Luckily for the Broncos the play stood as called and it didn’t cost them.
- The Broncos don’t waste any time before they return to the national spotlight. Their next contest is against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football one week from today. Hopefully Denver can keep this early momentum going. Go Broncos!