Chris Hall of DenverBroncos.com sat down with Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway for the latest episode of Elway Access on Tuesday afternoon.
On the heels of a historic game by Peyton Manning, Elway gave his take on Manning's 462-yard, seven-touchdown passing performance from the perspective of a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, as well as some of his other takeaways from the Broncos' 49-27 win over the Ravens in the 2013 NFL regular season opener.
And just as Manning's performance left many of the 25 million who viewed the game on television in astonishment, Elway said that he walked away from the game with a similar impression.
"That's exactly what I said after the game was, 'Wow!' after that performance by Peyton," Elway said. "But I think that, as a quarterback, you get on a roll and you get in that zone – and we were in that zone."
Although the Broncos were shut out after one quarter and trailed by a field goal at the half, Manning led an offensive outpouring in the second half, as the Broncos outscored the Ravens 35-10 in the game's final 30 minutes. For Elway, the poise the team showed in closing the game on a strong note was particularly promising.
"Well, I think we were excited about starting the game, but I think when you look at what happened, we got off to a slow start and were down at halftime," he said. "Going into that second half, we really got hot. It was fun and exciting to see that second half because that's what I thought we could do offensively, and to be able to do that against the defending world champions was even better."
One area in particular that Elway circled as a positive was the performance of the offensive line, which enabled the offense to operate fluidly by keeping Manning on his feet and giving him time to throw the ball throughout most of the game.
"One thing that we need to give a lot of credit to was the offensive line – they did a tremendous job protecting Peyton," Elway said. "Usually that's where it always starts. He got the time and then Peyton was spot on every time, he was in the rhythm. It was exciting to watch."
The offensive line ultimately passed the stiff test that was posed by a Ravens defensive front seven that included Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Haloti Ngata – who have 172.0 career sacks and 12 Pro Bowl appearances between them – among others. And for Elway, it was a reassuring performance for some of the challenges that the offensive line will face throughout the remainder of the season – including on Sunday against the Giants.
"It's a good confidence builder. When you look at Suggs and Elvis coming off the outside and Ngata on the inside pushing that pocket, they can rush the passer," Elway said. "So to be able to do a good job against that type of front gives us confidence going in against the Giants."
Elway also had praise for linebacker Shaun Phillips, who had 2.5 sacks in his Broncos' debut, noting that Phillips has led the charge both on the field and in the locker room to establish a pass rush in the absence of linebacker Von Miller.
"One thing that we did know we were getting with Shaun is great leadership, and he's been one of those guys that's really picked up on the defensive side and become a leader, just being here a short time," Elway said. "Not only is he a savvy veteran that really still knows how to play the game and can play the game, but also he's been a tremendous help on the leadership side."
Ultimately, however, Elway noted that the win was just one small step towards the team's much-larger, long-term goals.
"It was a great start for us, but the thing is that we can't get too excited about one. It was one big one out of 16," he said. "Obviously, we have to win those home games. In front of 25 million people, it was nice to see Peyton perform the way he did, as well as the football team. It was a great start for us, but it was one out of 16 steps."
And, turning his attention from last week's victory to this week's opponent, Elway noted that the New York Giants flashed their capabilities despite turning the ball over six times in a 36-31 loss to the Cowboys – and that those capabilities are emblematic of just how dangerous the Giants can be.
"They're coming off a tough loss to the Cowboys where they turned the ball over six times, and really, until the sixth turnover, they had a chance to win that game," Elway said. "That just tells you what kind of a football team they do have, that they were still in the game and had a chance to win even though they had committed five turnovers."