The NFL knows how to throw a party. The theatrics and pre-game drama leading up to the season opening game was tiresome enough, but viewers had to sit through an additional 33-minute delay due to lightning before kickoff.
Even Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning got off to a slow start against the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens. But once the former Tennessee quarterback warmed up, he was on a Rocky Mountain high.
There was no sign Manning was a little over a year removed from neck back surgery that early on had cost him some velocity on his passes.
Against the Ravens, he threw seven touchdown passes. Are you kidding me? Seven? Was that in honor of Broncos icon John Elway's jersey number?
“It's a huge achievement,'' said Wes Welker, the recipient of nine Manning passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
“But he was so nonchalant about doing seven touchdown passes, that you didn't really notice it.''
Huge achievement? How about humongous?
It was the most touchdown passes thrown by a quarterback in an NFL game since 1969. That was the year man first walked on the moon. The year the New York Amazin' Mets won the World Series. Gas was 35 cents a gallon. It was the year that birthed Woodstock.
Get the picture?
Manning finished the Ravens off in the 49-27 game by piling up 462 yards through the air. He was 27 for 42 with no interceptions, an average gain of 11 yards per reception. One of his touchdown passes traveled 78 yards and his quarterback rating was an eye-popping 141.1.
“Got to give him credit,'' said former Bronco defensive end Elvis Dumervil who suited up for the Ravens for the first time Thursday night. “I mean, whoa, that tough to beat.''
I'd say. And it was one more step toward putting Peyton Manning on the NFL's Mount Rushmore. Critics would cry out that Manning has been the quarterback on only one Super Bowl championship team, that little brother Eli already has two Super Bowl rings.
And, as impressive as Peyton and the Broncos offense was Thursday night, I guarantee he would give all those numbers and accolades back if he could have found a way to lead his team over the Ravens in last season's AFC playoffs in Denver. The Broncos lost 38-35 in double overtime and Manning's NFL postseason record dropped to 9-11.
It was the Ravens who punched their ticket to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the 49ers in the NFL's championship game.
Championship trophies are the only things lacking on his rhinestone resume. He won one SEC Championship Game in his four seasons at Tennessee. He never won a BCS Championship Game. That was accomplished the next season by quarterback Tee Martin.
But if anyone had one game to win and could pick their quarterback, most would select Peyton Manning. No one prepares more. No one studies and knows the game more than Manning.
No one knows how many years Manning will play. His health and physical ability will determine that. He takes care of himself and doesn't want to walk away from the game with any regrets.
You would have to put Denver on a short list of teams that have good chances of making the Super Bowl this season. The Broncos will go as far as Manning can take them. Thursday night was a great start.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.