ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos' 2013 campaign began on the same field - and against the same opponent - where their 2012 season ended. This time, the result was decisively different, as the Broncos scored 49 points on the Ravens and quarterback Peyton Manning tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes. It was a fitting beginning to a season where the Broncos would set a new league record for most points scored, as Denver put up 179 points in its first four games (44.8 points per game) and jumped out to a 4-0 start.
Broncos 49, Ravens 27
How it happened:Under the bright lights of a national spotlight, the Broncos spotted the Ravens a 17-14 halftime lead before erupting with five second-half touchdowns – keyed by the performance of Manning. Manning tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes – two in the first half to tight end Julius Thomas, followed by one to wide receiver Andre Caldwell and two each to Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas.
Key moment:After the Broncos seized a 21-17 lead on the opening drive of the third quarter when Manning found Caldwell on an arching 28-yard touchdown pass down the sideline, the defense came through with its biggest stand of the night. The Broncos stopped Baltimore on three consecutive plays – capped by defensive end Shaun Phillips' sack of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco at the Baltimore 14, forcing a punt. On the ensuing play, safety David Bruton split the gap off the edge of the line and blocked Sam Koch's punt, setting up Manning and the offense with the football at the Ravens' 10-yard line. Two plays later, Manning hit Welker for a 5-yard touchdown, putting Denver out in front 28-17.
It was over when:Manning linked up with Demaryius Thomas on a touchdown for the record books – a 78-yard catch-and-run that put the Broncos up 49-27 after the Ravens had reeled off 10 straight points, and a score that moved Manning into the company of Sid Luckman, Adrian Burke, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle and Joe Kapp (Eagles quarterback Nick Foles became the seventh on Sunday) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for seven touchdowns in a game.
Key performer:Of the many elements of Manning's record-tying performance, perhaps the most amazing aspect was that the quarterback didn't throw his first touchdown pass until 19 minutes and 25 seconds into the game. Manning launched four touchdown passes in a span of just over 14 minutes in the second half, a 28-0 Broncos scoring run beginning with his strike to Caldwell and concluding with his 26-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with 13:13 to play. Nearly one-fourth of the quarterback's 23 second-half passing attempts went for touchdowns.
Broncos 41, Giants 23
How it happened:For a second consecutive week, the Broncos put the pedal to the floor in the second half and turned a narrow contest into a runaway victory. After holding a 10-9 edge at halftime, the Broncos poured on 31 second-half points – with a pair of Manning touchdown passes, a crucial 25-yard touchdown dash by running back Knowshon Moreno and an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown by Trindon Holliday highlighting the scoring. The Denver defense also forced three fourth-quarter interceptions by Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Key moment:With the Broncos' lead cut to one late in the third quarter, Moreno provided a spark that ignited Denver the rest of the game. The running back tore around the right side of the line and bounced to the outside on a 25-yard touchdown, extending the Broncos' lead to 24-16 with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was over when:Holliday scooped up a bouncing punt at the New York 19, weaved through a series of Giants tacklers, and then tore into the open. No one had a chance at catching Holliday on the play, and after he crossed the end zone to give the Broncos a 38-16 lead with 10:13 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants had no chance of catching the Broncos, either.
Key performer:Moreno had a pair of 20-plus-yard touchdown runs, and the running back finished with 93 yards on 13 carries and added 14 receiving yards to boot.
Broncos 37, Raiders 21
How it happened: *In a Monday-night matchup between the two franchises that have played each other more frequently than any other pairing in the history of *Monday Night Football, the Broncos raced out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back. Manning threw three first-half touchdown passes to wide receiver Eric Decker, Welker and Julius Thomas, guiding the Broncos to a 27-7 lead at the half.
Key moment:On the first play from scrimmage after the Raiders cut the Broncos' lead to 17-7 midway through the second quarter, Manning hooked up with Decker on a 61-yard odyssey where Decker weaved in and out of Raiders defenders while racing downfield. Three plays later, Manning linked up with Thomas on a 13-yard touchdown pass, putting the Broncos back up 24-7.
It was over when:Running back Ronnie Hillman plunged in from 1-yard out to put the Broncos on top 37-14 with 11:27 to play.
Key performer:Manning ignited in the first half, completing 21 of his first 24 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns. By the time the night was over, Manning had completed 32 of 37 passes (86.5 percent) for 374 yards – good for a quarterback rating of 135.8. It was just the sixth time in NFL history that a quarterback threw for 350 yards with a completion percentage above 85 percent.
Broncos 52, Eagles 20
How it happened:The Broncos broke a franchise record for points scored in a game that had stood for nearly 50 years by taking advantage of key contributions from all over the roster. While Manning threw four touchdown passes – bringing his season total to an NFL-record 16 through four games – Denver also struck decisively on special teams. Holliday zoomed through the Eagles' kick coverage on a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter, and linebacker Steven Johnson blocked a punt, scooped it up, and scored his first career touchdown to give Denver a 49-13 lead. The Broncos outscored the Eagles 31-7 in the final two quarters.
Key moment:The teams traded scores through the game's opening 19 minutes, and after Eagles running back Chris Polk plunged into the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown run with 11:06 to play in the second quarter, pulling Philadelphia within 14-13, the Broncos were in need of a response. Manning and the offense answered commandingly, driving 80 yards in 11 plays and capping the drive with a 4-yard Moreno plunge into the end zone.
It was over when:Manning threw his fourth touchdown of the day – a 4-yard strike to Welker – putting the Broncos up 42-13 with 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Key performer:While Manning had no shortage of memorable efforts in the 2013 season, he posted his highest quarterback rating against the Eagles – a 146.0 mark. The quarterback completed 28 of 34 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns without an interception; Manning did not throw a single pick in the Broncos' first four games.