He’s Baaaack…

Peyton Manning served notice to the NFL and everyone else Sunday night that, though he might be a little older and maybe even a little broken, his mind is as sharp as ever.

The Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Broncos season home opener 31-19.  The score is not indicative of how fiercely competitive the game was played.  In fact, the Steelers were driving for the go ahead touchdown with two minutes left in the fourth quarter when a Ben Roethlisberger pass was intercepted by Tracy Porter and run back for a 43-yard Denver touchdown.

But the story was and will be for a while it seems, Peyton.  After a year of self doubt (not to mention doubt from fans and others), physical therapy and being released by the only professional team he’d ever known, Manning suited up in his new orange and blue uniform and played like a man on a mission.

Manning and the Broncos started slowly in the first quarter.  He seemed maybe a bit rusty and maybe even a bit nervous in his debut.  For a man who’s been in many big games, this might have been the biggest.  His chance to prove he was still a four-time NFL MVP.  The five-star field general, barking orders at the line of scrimmage and picking apart helpless defenses.  And prove it he did.

Manning completed 19 of his 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He had no interceptions.  Though sacked twice, he bounced up both times looking more like a 26 than a 36-year-old.

The elder Manning really came alive in the second quarter, even though he threw only two passes in the quarter.  The Broncos offense switched to the no-huddle formation at the beginning of the second quarter.  The change in the team and Manning was immediately apparent if not long lasting.

The Broncos only had three offensive snaps in the second quarter, but one of those resulted in a 71-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas.   The hurry-up though carried through the second half when the Broncos offense seemed to be able to gain yards at will against the vaunted Steel Curtain.

Big Ben kept the Steelers in the game for most of the night doing what he does.  On multiple third and longs with Broncos defenders were swarming around him, he calmly stepped aside and found the open receiver for a first down.  At times, he seems to be in full speed while the defensive is moving in slow motion.  But in the end, it was the Porter interception that sealed the deal.  Manning must have been watching, thinking, “Sure glad that guy’s on my team.”  Porter intercepted Manning, the then Indianapolis Colts quarterback, in Super Bowl XLIV for a touchdown, ending the Colts title dreams.

In his post-game press conference, Mike Tomlin, the Steelers coach, was asked if he was surprised by the new Broncos quarterback’s performance.

He responded simply, “He’s Peyton Manning.”

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