Week 1: vs. Baltimore**
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 quarterback Peyton 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.* *
Week 2: at N.Y. Giants
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.
Week 3: vs. Oakland
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.
Week 4: vs. Philadelphia
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 first half of 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.
Week 5: at Dallas
How it happened:With a television audience of 28.3 million looking on, the Broncos and Cowboys did not disappoint, embarking on a thrilling shootout that featured 99 points and 1,039 combined yards of total offense. Trailing 48-41 with 7:19 to play, Manning and the offense embarked on a crucial nine-play, 73-yard drive – with Moreno's 1-yard plunge into the end zone with 2:39 to play providing the answer. With the game tied, linebacker Danny Trevathan dove in front of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's pass and intercepted the ball at the Dallas 24, putting the Broncos in position to win the game. Eight plays later, kicker Matt Prater sent a 28-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired, clinching the victory for the Broncos.
Key moment:Trevathan's interception was not only the key moment of the game – it was arguably the most pivotal play of the first half of the 2013 season. Not to be overlooked, however, was Manning's 16-yard strike to Welker on second-and-goal from the Dallas 17-yard-line during the previous drive. The pass set up Moreno's game-tying touchdown and averted a potential third-and-long situation.
It was over when:Prater's field goal sailed through the uprights and the clock at AT&T Stadium read 0:00.
Key performer:Manning went 33-for-42 for 414 yards and four touchdowns, and the quarterback also scored his first rushing touchdown since 2008 on a 1-yard naked bootleg touchdown run in the second quarter. The quarterback was at his best when the game was on the line, completing all seven of his passing attempts on the Broncos' final two scoring drives.
Week 6: vs. Jacksonville
How it happened:The Broncos once again saved their best for the second half, using a trio of Moreno touchdowns to break open a tight game and put away the Jaguars. Although Jacksonville narrowed the score to 21-19 on a 5-yard touchdown scamper by running back Maurice Jones-Drew with 7:43 left in the third quarter, the Broncos answered definitively. Denver drove 80 yards in eight plays on the ensuing drive in just 3:43, capping the drive with an 8-yard Moreno score. The Broncos defense answered the bell in the fourth quarter, intercepting Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne twice and shutting out the Jaguars.
Key moment:On the series after the Broncos took a 28-19 lead, defensive end Malik Jackson announced his presence with authority on three consecutive plays. Jackson sacked Henne for a 7-yard loss on first down, then swallowed up Jones-Drew for a 1-yard loss on the next play – and then turned in a 5-yard sack of Henne on third down for an encore, ensuring that the Jaguars would not answer Denver's touchdown.
It was over when:Moreno scored his third touchdown of the day, a 3-yard plunge with 9:09 remaining that extended the Broncos lead to 16 and capped the game's scoring.
Key performer:When Moreno touched the ball in the red zone, he made it count. The running back scored on three of his 15 carries, finding the end zone on runs of 1, 8 and 3 yards. He also chipped in 62 receiving yards on seven catches, including a key 28-yard catch-and-run on third-and-20 on the Broncos' opening drive, keeping the offense on the field and leading to Manning's 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas.
Week 7: at Indianapolis
How it happened:The Broncos fell into a 19-point hole twice – midway through the third quarter, and then early in the fourth after Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri hit a 52-yard field goal to put Indianapolis up 36-17 with 12:59 to play. Denver refused to go quietly into the night, however, as Manning and the offense stormed back with a three-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 31-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. On the ensuing possession, safety Duke Ihenacho recovered a Colts fumble at the Indianapolis 23, setting up the Broncos with excellent field position. The offense answered accordingly, as Moreno scored from 1-yard out, bringing the Broncos within 36-30 with 8:44 to play. However, a pair of late turnovers ultimately proved costly and Denver ran out of time in Indianapolis.
Key moment:While a strip-sack of Manning by Colts linebacker Robert Mathis that forced a safety and led to a 26-3 Indianapolis scoring run was pivotal, it was linebacker Pat Angerer's fourth-quarter interception of Manning – on a play where the quarterback was hit from behind as he released the pass – that ultimately proved to be the game's decisive play. The play set the Colts up in position for Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal with 5:57 to play, and the two-score deficit was too much for Denver to overcome.
It was over when:Prater's onside kick attempt with 12 seconds remaining was recovered by the Colts, ending hope of a last-second miracle.
Key performer:When the Broncos needed a spark in the fourth quarter, Decker provided it. Decker's 49-yard tipped reception on the series after the Colts took a 36-17 lead helped spark the Broncos' comeback effort – and that was hardly the wide receiver's only contribution. Decker caught eight passes for a career-high 150 yards and a touchdown.
Week 8: vs. Washington
How it happened:The Broncos erupted for 38 unanswered points in the second half – 31 of which came in the fourth quarter – erasing a 21-7 deficit and putting away the Redskins. The Broncos used a pair of fourth-down conversions, including Manning's 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joel Dreessen that tied the game at 21 with 14:56 left to play, and the quarterback threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. Denver pounded Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III throughout the game – registering three sacks and 13 quarterback hits – and the pressure paid off in the fourth quarter, as the Broncos forced five turnovers, including two interceptions of Griffin III and two of his backup, Kirk Cousins.
Key moment:Trailing 21-7 midway through the third quarter and needing a spark, the Broncos opted to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Washington 20-yard line. With the stakes raised, Moreno stepped up with a critical 5-yard run that kept the drive alive. Three plays later, running back Montee Ball scored his first-career touchdown on a 4-yard run that brought the Broncos within 21-14 and ignited the second-half scoring.
It was over when:Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off Cousins and returned the interception 75 yards for a touchdown with 2:07 to play. The score capped the Broncos' scoring for the game and the first half of the season; Denver has outscored its opponents 208-107 in the second halves of games so far this season.
Key performer:Manning completed 30-of-44 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns – the quarterback's 87th career 300-yard passing game. Manning's three touchdown strikes in the fourth quarter ultimately helped make the difference in the game, as the quarterback recorded his 50th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, most in NFL history.