cheesin'I don’t think too many people were surprise to see the Denver Broncos defeat the Baltimore Ravens in the National Football League season opener on Thursday night. After all, the Broncos are the leading favorite to win this year’s Super Bowl according to the odds makers in Las Vegas. What is surprising is how it happened. Denver shredded Baltimore’s defense for 510 yards of total offense en route to a 49-27 victory. Let’s not call this win by the Broncos payback by any means. A loss in the first game of the regular season is nothing like a loss in the playoffs, which is what the Ravens gave the Broncos on the way to winning last year’s Super Bowl. If anything, the Broncos made a statement about moving on to this year. In the game, the Broncos’ seven touchdowns were all passed in by quarterback Peyton Manning. That’s right, seven touchdown passes for Manning. People don’t see that happen on X Box or Play Station, let alone on a NFL playing field. Manning threw five of those TD passes in the second half. He finished 27 of 42 for 462 yards to go along with those seven TDs. If there was any lingering questions about Manning’s arm strength or his overall health, can those please be put to rest? This man is back, and perhaps better than he’s ever been. If that’s the case, that’s really scary for the rest of the league. Combine Manning’s health with the fact he is in his second year in the Broncos’ system, and the potential for this season to be a record breaker is huge. The main thing I would say about Manning’s performance is to appreciate it for everything it’s worth. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Manning carve up a defense, but we don’t know how much longer he’ll  be in the league. Manning is 37 years old and he’ll be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when he does decide to hang up the cleats. I think he’s the second-best QB in the league, very close behind Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, and he might be the best QB I’ve seen play over the course of time. This is no disrespect to the other all-time great QBs who have played, but I say that because of the situations Manning has had to overcome just to keep his teams in games and in Super Bowl talk. Yes, it’s understood Manning is below .500 in playoff games, but I don’t think he’s had the best teams playing with him. He’s a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player and he does have a Super Bowl title. Other detractors will say there’s no way Manning should be compared to New England Patriots QB Tom Brady because Brady has three Super Bowl titles and came close to winning two more. For that, I’ll say Brady had great all-around teams around him. In other words, the Patriots could survive if Brady wasn’t up to par because the team’s running game, defense and special teams were very good. If Manning had a bad game for the Indianapolis Colts, there’s no chance of them winning. Just look back at 2011, when Manning missed the season due to neck surgery and the Colts went 2-14 in his absence. I just don’t think people appreciate the things Manning does with his preparation and all of the adjustments he makes at the line of scrimmage during games. The things he sees and the ability to know every single match-up his team can take advantage of speaks volumes about the amount of time he puts into each and every week. Manning’s audibles are unlike anything we’ve seen from any other quarterback, and those adjustments are probably the model for what we see from the rest of today’s quarterbacks. The 7 TD passes from Thursday (with no interceptions) is something we may never see again. It was almost 44 years since the last time someone threw 7 TDs in one game, which was Minnesota Vikings QB Joe Kapp on September 28, 1969. This performance is a tribute to Manning’s work ethic and dedication. Appreciate what we’re seeing from Peyton Manning, because we may not see another one like him.

By Charles Taylor

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