CHICAGO -- Thursday night at rainy Soldier Field, quarterback
The four-time NFL MVP kicked off a 31-3 Broncos win against the Chicago Bears by leading the Denver offense on an 11-play, 60-yard drive into the red zone, but a tipped pass ended the drive with an interception.
"It’s disappointing, obviously, any time you get down in the red zone and don’t come away with points," said Manning, who called Thursday's preseason opener "a decent start."
Regardless, Head Coach John Fox called Manning's performance in the win "remarkable," and while he was unhappy with his interception, Manning recognized the importance of Thursday's reps.
"Considering where I was a year ago, the fact that I was out there and took a snap and completed some passes today, it has been a long haul for me," Manning said. "That was rewarding, even that first snap, the very first play – that was a big step for me."
The opening drive began at Denver's own 38-yard line after a long kickoff return by wide receiver
From there, Manning got back to work, hitting tight end
McGahee took another carry for 3 yards, then -- thanks to plenty of time provided by the offensive line -- Manning found wide receiver
A McGahee run for no gain, a holding penalty on tackle
After a McGahee run for 2 yards, Manning threw an incomplete pass aimed at wide receiver
“The ball got popped up a little bit, flopped around and their guy made a good play on it -- those things happen," Head Coach John Fox said.
It was Manning's first and last drive of the game, and he finished 4-of-7 for 44 yards and an interception.
"I thought there were some good things in there," Manning said. "We had a couple third downs we overcame and spread the ball around. I threw a pass to Decker there on the left sideline with really good protection. He was like the fifth read in the play – not one you usually get back to – some good protection. And I thought Willis had some good runs in there, so (there are) some things to build on and things that were positive.”
Manning's interception wasn't the end of Denver's night, however -- and the first-team defense made sure it didn't lead to any momentum heading Chicago's way, either.
After the interception, the Bears offense, led by quarterback Jason Campbell -- Jay Cutler didn't play -- made it out to its own 30-yard line thanks to two Broncos penalties and two 1-yard Michael Bush runs. But when Campbell handed off to Bush a third time, the veteran running back fumbled the ball. Linebacker
"I thought we rebounded (from the interception) pretty well," Fox said.
The rest of the first half belonged to Denver, as Chicago's next three drives were three-and-outs, highlighted by rookie
Irving's hit and Ayers' third-down sack set up Denver's next scoring drive.
On the strength of a 20-yard completion from Hanie to tight end
"We had a lot of guys doing a lot of good things," Tamme said. "Coming off after that (opening) drive, it would’ve been great to get another chance to get back out there, but that will come. Everyone that stepped in really did a nice job."
At halftime, the Broncos had outgained the Bears 177 yards to 41, and Campbell called Denver's defense "tremendous."
Meanwhile, Denver's defense continued its dominant play, as Wolfe notched his second sack of the game and fellow rookie defensive lineman
Bears kicker Robbie Gould hit a 47-yard field goal for Chicago's only points of the day, but in the fourth quarter, the defense was at it again. The Broncos sacked Chicago quarterback Matt Blanchard three times -- two courtesy of second-year defensive lineman
Even though the Broncos outgained the Bears by more than 200 yards and won the time of possession battle by more than seven minutes, the team knows it has plenty to work on.
"It was a convincing win, but we’ve still got to go back to the film," Tamme said. "There are probably a lot of things we could’ve done better. That’s what this time of year is for.”
Tamme said the players are looking forward to watching tape from something other than practice, and Fox is glad the team will have plenty to build on.
"It’s a good first start, a good first outing," the head coach said. "It’s what we do from it from here on that’s going to count.”