Following a lightning delay and a rusty first quarter, the Broncos eventually kicked off the 2013 NFL season Thursday night with a bang, as Peyton Manning threw SEVEN (!!!!!!!) touchdown passes in a cathartic 49-27 win over the visiting Ravens (Box Score, Gamebook).
After the teams exchanged punts, the Ravens drove 80 yards in 10 plays to open the scoring with a two-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Vonta Leach, the fullback who had been cut and re-signed over the offseason.
Early in the second quarter, Chris Harris made a beautiful diving pick in front of old friend Brandon Stokley, and Peyton Manning connected with Julius Thomas for a 24-yard touchdown on the very next play.
Fewer than four minutes later, Wes Welker muffed a punt which he should never have tried to catch, setting Baltimore and Ray Rice up for an easy one-yard touchdown run which put them ahead 14-7.
A pass interference call on Eric Decker set Denver back to 1st-and-20 at their own 33, but two snaps and two throws from Manning to Orange Julius later, and the Broncos had retied the score with 5:41 remaining in the half. (14-14)
Denver's defense stiffened just in time to hold Baltimore to a 25-yard field goal after a terrific 77-yard march. (17-14 Baltimore at halftime)
Starting the second half, Denver again overcame a rough down-and-distance; a sack by Elvis Dumervil put the Broncos into 2nd-and-17 at their own 13, but four quick plays later, Bubba Caldwell made a juggling 28-yard touchdown catch. (21-17 Denver)
Another big special teams play - this time a blocked punt by David Bruton - placed Denver at the Ravens' 10-yard line, and Manning completed two five-yard passes to Welker, who had his first touchdown as a Bronco. (28-17 Denver)
It wouldn't take long for Welker to score his second one, as four minutes later, he caught PMFM's fifth touchdown pass of the night, an easy two-yard throw to put the Broncos ahead 35-17.
After a bit of a lull, Manning completed another possession with a scoring pass early in the fourth quarter, this time a beautiful 26-yarder to Demaryius Thomas. (42-17 Denver)
The score should have soon been 49-17, but Danny Trevathan dropped the ball while celebrating too early on a would-be 30-yard pick six. Not only did Trevathan reprise the 2012 gaffe by Trindon Holliday at Carolina, but the error resulted in Wesley Woodyard suffering a potential ankle injury.
Instead, the Ravens covered 80 yards in five plays, including a 13-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Marlon Brown. (42-24 Denver)
Five minutes later, John Harbaugh made the odd decision to kick a field goal from the 12-yard line, narrowing the score to 42-27 Denver.
But after another puzzling move - a deep kickoff - Manning threw his seventh touchdown pass of the night, and second to Demaryius Thomas, this time a 78-yard catch-and-run. (49-27 Denver)
It wasn't quite the 1997 playoff win over the Jaguars, but it was an emphatic measure of revenge, and a spectacular start to Denver's 2013 campaign.
Harris's pick of Flacco broke a string of 210 interception-free pass attempts for the Ravens QB. The prior interception? Harris's pick-six at Baltimore in Week 15.
It was reported Thursday that Julius was arrested in August for failing to appear in court over a traffic violation.
Manning's seven-touchdown performance marked the first time he three more than three in a game as a Bronco.