DENVER — Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos waited eight long months, then another 33 minutes, to get the season started.
A record-tying seven touchdown passes — something no one had done in 44 years — made it worth the while.
Connecting with his most prized addition, Wes Welker, and former college basketball player Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas for two TDs each, Manning directed Denver to a 49-27 victory over Super Bowl champion Baltimore on Thursday night in the NFL opener, a much-anticipated rematch against the team that ended the Broncos’ playoff run in January.
“Peyton had an amazing night,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “Peyton’s had a lot of amazing nights.”
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Not like this, though.
Manning is the sixth QB in NFL history to throw seven TD passes in a game and the first since Joe Kapp did it for Minnesota against Baltimore on Sept. 28, 1969.
The others read like a Who’s Who of passers who came along before the NFL became so pass-happy: Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle.
“I felt like we had to keep scoring because Baltimore can score at any time,” Manning said.
He was 27 of 42 for 462 yards with no interceptions for an off-the-charts quarterback rating of 141.1.
“He’s phenomenal. To continue to come out every year and put that kind of performance on for us, it’s amazing,” Julius Thomas said.
Nobody had ever put up 49 points on the Ravens in their 18-year history.
It was all part of a thorough thrashing of the team that put a harsh end to what had looked like a Super Bowl-bound 2012 in Denver. The rematch came nearly eight months after Baltimore beat Denver 38-35 in double overtime on an icy January night in the same stadium.
The Broncos waited all offseason for the rematch, then for 33 minutes more when a lightning storm in the area delayed the start.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, armed with a new six-year, $120.6 million contract, matched the Broncos score for score in the first half but had to play catch-up after falling behind 35-17 early in the third quarter. His final numbers: 34 of 62 for 362 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
It was such a runaway, the Broncos were throwing away touchdowns by the end. Linebacker Danny Trevathan fumbled his pick-6 just shy of the goal line, celebrating too soon and the ball bounced out of the end zone for a touchback instead of a TD.
Manning’s seventh TD pass covered only a few yards in the air but Demaryius Thomas took it 78 yards to score. He finished with five receptions for 161 yards, Julius Thomas had five catches for 110 yards and Welker led the way with nine for 67 yards.
• Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper and cornerback Cary Williams got into a heated scuffle at practice, and a player close to the incident indicated it was directly related to a video that surfaced five weeks ago of Cooper using a racial slur at a June concert.
• Jacksonville could be without tight end Marcedes Lewis in the season opener against Kansas City. Lewis (calf) missed his second consecutive day of practice.
• An American Indian tribe in upstate New York said it will launch a radio ad campaign pressing for the Washington Redskins to shed a name often criticized as offensive. The Oneida Indian Nation said the first ad will run on radio stations in Washington before the team hosts the Philadelphia Eagles in its opener Monday. In the ad, Oneida Nation’s Ray Halbritter says NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should “stand up to bigotry” by denouncing “the racial slur” in the team’s name.