Posted September 10, 2012

Peyton Manning of old quickly proves that he’s still got it

Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers

Peyton Manning looked right at home when the Broncos went to his trademark no-huddle offense. (Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)

Pittsburgh linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote walked up to the line on a 2nd-and-7, showing blitz. Peyton Manning vacated his spot in the shotgun, walked up to his center, pointed to one of the defenders, then calmly returned to his position.

At the snap Timmons came crashing toward Manning, while Foote bluffed toward the line, then stopped. Manning, knowing what Pittsburgh was planning, waited two ticks and then floated a pass up the sideline and over the shoulder of his tight end, Jacob Tamme, for an 18-yard completion.

“I don’t know how Peyton’s neck is doing,” NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth quipped, “but his brain’s doing just fine.”

If this was Manning working off a little rust, then the rest of the league might be in trouble. In his first start since the 2010 season, Manning hit on 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, as the Broncos opened their season with a 31-19 win over the Steelers.

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Minus Ryan Clark and James Harrison, Pittsburgh faced a tough task heading into a fired-up Mile High City on Sunday night. For a quarter, though, the Steelers appeared up to the challenge defensively, shutting out Manning with the help of some timely pressure.

Maybe the Broncos wanted to ease Manning back into the mix. Maybe they had a game plan that didn’t work out. Whatever the explanation, the game changed when Denver threw caution to the wind and went all-out no-huddle in quarter No. 2.

After that, it was as close to vintage Manning as we could have expected to see in Week 1.

“It helped a lot,” Manning said on NBC’s postgame show of Denver’s move to an up-tempo look. “I know we talked … about how we were going to use the no-huddle as a change-up, but it went so well that the coaches said, ‘Stay with it.’”

His first scoring drive as a Bronco came in that second quarter, after Pittsburgh had taken a 3-0 lead. Manning responded to that score by leading the Broncos on an 80-yard touchdown march, hitting 6 of 7 passes and even scrambling for seven yards and a first down on 2nd-and-6.

It would be nearly an hour until Manning took another game snap — the Steelers closed out the half with a long touchdown drive, then opened the third quarter with a nine-minute possession that resulted in a field goal and a 13-7 lead.

Manning needed all of 39 seconds to get it back, hitting Demaryius Thomas on a short pass that turned into a 71-yard touchdown. Pittsburgh answered again to grab a 19-14 edge early in the fourth quarter, but there was no stopping Manning.

The Broncos wound up scoring 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter — their only possession that didn’t result in points was their final one, when Manning took a knee twice to salt the win.

Ben Roethlisberger did his best to propel the Steelers over the top in spite of Manning’s effective return. In typical Roethlisberger fashion, he created plays out of absolutely nothing, keeping drives alive and putting points on the board. But, twice the Steelers came away with only field goals after driving deep into Denver territory. Then, late in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger did the one thing Manning did not: made a huge mistake.

Following a Matt Prater field goal that made it 25-19, Denver, Roethlisberger attempted to squeeze a pass in to Emmanuel Sanders along the sideline. New Bronco Tracy Porter, he of the interception off Manning that sealed Super Bowl XLIV for the Saints, jumped the route, picked off the throw and took it to the house to seal Denver’s victory.

The road will not get any easier for Manning and his team. Next week, a trip to Atlanta looms, followed by a home date with Houston.

For the moment, however, all the questions about Manning have been answered. He took a bunch of hits from the Steelers’ defense, especially early, and kept right on getting up. He made all the throws that he needed to, to all areas of the field.

And, most importantly of all, he showed he still has those qualities that make him Peyton Manning — the ability to stay one step ahead of the defense, to pick out a weakness and exploit it.

It’s easy to overreact to one week of football. Just ask Redskins fans, who are no doubt hailing Robert Griffin III as the second coming, or Green Bay fans, who might be lamenting their team’s disappointing debut.

So, we still have plenty to learn about Manning and the Broncos.

“There’s always a lot of unknown going into the first week,” Manning said. “It was a very interesting game … we’re still trying to form our identity. … It’s just one game and you try to keep it in perspective. But I know how hard I’ve worked to get to this point. It definitely feels good, it’s special.”

The football world waited a long time, through an entire NFL season and move from Indianapolis to Denver, to see Peyton Manning back on the field again. But while the uniform and his teammates may be different, we saw Sunday night that Manning has not changed. That could mean great things ahead for the Broncos.

10 comments
WatchNfl
WatchNfl

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noapologieshere
noapologieshere

some clarity is nessesary.

manning did this against a VERY GOOD DEFENSE (not the bills).

manning spent the first quarter learning what he was up against.

THEN THE NO HUDDLE ENDED SUBSTITUTIONS AND exhausted the steeler defense.

no huddle forces fatigue at this altitude.

funny how the no huddle eliminated any sign of rust.

i know, i am biased. AND I ADMIT MY BIAS.

the bronco defense kept a very powerful running game well under 100 yards (healthy or not, that is their pride and joy).

time to reassess the playoff picture.

by the way, ANYBODY COMPLAINING ABOUT ARM STRENGTH AND ACCURACY NOW? 

notcarycooper
notcarycooper

Are you all nus? It was game one of a sixteen game season. He did look better then in the preseason and his interceptions, however it was week one. Peyton recieved only one hard hit and seemed to take it well. Shrugged it off and went on. Let us not forget that there are two games against the Raiders, two against the Chiefs and two more against San Diego to come.

earlettehannibal
earlettehannibal

@PeytonManning played gr8. As a team the #Broncos owned the #Steelers.  Ben went down several times in a row, I was starting to think he was a mattress he was laying down so much!  The NFL should not count #18 out just yet.

Seola1
Seola1

Manning is good, no doubt but my Steelers have always struggled playing the Broncos in Denver.  Denver runs the hurry up offense, winding the Steelers more than against any other team (you'd think they'd learn by now to do this throughout the season).  Losing Ryan Clark was insanely rough - and even though Clark is cleared to play, Tomlin and the rest of the organization doesn't want to put his health in danger for a game.  That has to be applauded.  Missing Harrison is a major pain as well.  We lost several key defensive players as well, to things like retirement.  Hines Ward's blocks are sorely missed too.  The Steelers were not in championship form at all rebuilding with new players in positions long held by loyal athletes.  I'd venture to say at least half the team on both sides of the plays are not players from last year.  That said - yes, Manning is a quick thinker but I hardly think the Steelers - especially this year - is a good gauge on his comeback greatness.

CharlesScamardo
CharlesScamardo

He is most likely the smartest human to play the postion of QB in the history of football. He was awesome against Pittsburgh. They will be the team to watch this season without a doubt.

TariWoolf
TariWoolf

Indy was stupid to let our man, Peyton, go. No Luck yesterday in the Bears fiasco.

me3
me3

Peyton Manning is so smart. And that is / will certainly compensate for arm strength that appears to be less then 100% at this time. When he's back at full strength again, he'll be playing on another planet by himself as usual!

BenPoehlman
BenPoehlman

One day he's locked up for leaking government files to Wikileaks, now he's back on the field and doing as good as ever.  It's unbelievable.

AaronNapier
AaronNapier

Excuses, Excuses. Keeping telling yourself that. The guy looked great and proved why he is the only 4 time MVP in history with the 3rd most TD's ever.

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