DENVER** – The Broncos defense came up big with two interceptions and the offense ended on a high note – but one Bronco quietly made history Sunday afternoon.
Kicker Brandon McManus split the uprights from 57 yards out to open the game – the fifth-longest kick in Broncos history and his first 50-plus yard conversion.
But McManus wasn't done. On the next drive, he sunk a 56-yarder, making him just the second kicker in NFL history to convert two field goals from 56 yards or longer in the same game. McManus went on to make two more field goals from 43 and 33 yards out.
McManus won the kicking job this offseason after jumping between the active roster and practice squad last season. In addition to learning how to control his power, McManus also adjusted his plant foot and overall stance over this offseason.
"It definitely helps to have a big leg, but I know I had to work on some accuracy in the offseason," said McManus. "I did that and I was happy to earn this job and show to this team that I can do this job well. It's great to have a great game and have a team win today."
Despite the difference from 2014 to 2015, McManus doesn't think he's any more confident than last season.
"I wouldn't say I ever felt unconfident," said McManus. "I just knew that no matter what, I would be in the same spot on every single kick. I knew that I would have the same rhythm compared to in the past I might have been a little off and it might have resulted in a missed kick. I know that I'm in my right groove out there now and I don't think I have any more confidence, or any less."
By the end of the day, McManus' kicks traveled a considerable distance with a total of 627 yards on four field goals (189 yards) and kickoffs (438 yards).
The Broncos' nearly 11-minute march
Denver entered the second half of the game with a 9-3 lead over Baltimore after a trio of field goals from McManus.
But Denver's momentum from the first half didn't carry over into the second. The offense stalled in all four series to open the second half. The first series put the Ravens up on the Broncos with a pick six and then Denver went three-and-out in the next two drives.
The Broncos punted on one more drive before its offense took to the field for the drive of the night. After starting the drive on their own 4-yard line, the Broncos proceeded to march 81 yards in a drive that took 10:56 off the clock and amassed 17 plays with six first downs. According to CBS, the Peyton Manning-orchestrated drive was the longest of his career in time elapsed.
While the series ended with a 33-yard field goal, it gave a real look to the potential the offense has and took the option of a game-winning field goal off the table for the Ravens.
"I thought we were, overall, fairly sloppy," said Evan Mathis. "The highlight of our game was the 18-play drive at the end, which was strong. But there's going to be plenty of stuff for us to grow from and learn from, when we go back and watch the tape—and that's not to take anything away from Baltimore, who was obviously one of the better defenses around the league. It's good to get the win and, more importantly, it's going to be good to have the tape to learn from."
Manning said he was able to glean more about the direction of the offense and opportunities for growth in that drive.
"Everybody just executed and did their job," Manning said. "Of course, it couldn't have happened at a more critical time. That's what we can, I think, build off of as an offense of what we did when we had to have it, backed up on our own four, just trying to change field position and keep from punting."
The nearly 11 minute drive not only put pressure on the Ravens with less than three minutes to secure a go-ahead touchdown, but it also let the defense rest before the final drive. On the subsequent drive, Denver's defense stepped up and safety Darian Stewart sealed with the win with an interception in the end zone.
"It was big to, as a group of guys, go out and call the four-minute offense, but we had the ball longer than that," said wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. "We (were) able to let the defense rest on the sideline and it was big to go out and convert (from) first down (to) first down, running the ball. That's something good we can take from this game."
Sanders potent in return to field
After sitting out the preseason due to an injured hamstring, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders made his return in a big way Sunday afternoon.
Sanders was pivotal in moving the chains for the Broncos with five first downs on the day – all coming on third downs.
"It felt good to be back out there," said Sanders. "On the first drive, I got the opportunity to catch three first downs, so I was excited about that. You know, this game is about getting into a rhythm and I was able to get into a rhythm early."
Sanders finished the game leading the Broncos and Ravens with 65 receiving yards on eight catches with a team-long 18-yard reception.
He also got his first taste of fielding punts this season after earning the job this past week. Going into the game, Sanders said he was looking for returns of 10 yards or more, or as he says, "first downs." On the day, Sanders accumulated 20 yards on three returns, including a long of 13 yards. Sanders averaged 6.7 yards on the day, but one of his catches in the first frame he stepped out of bounds for no gain.
Following the Broncos game, the following promotion is available:
- McDonald's: Gives fans in Colorado $1 Big Mac sandwiches or $1 Sausage Egg McMuffins the day after a Broncos game and 30% off any jersey in the Broncos Team Store
- Papa John's: "If the Broncos win, you win!" promotion gives fans in Colorado 50% off all orders the day after a Broncos win (home or away).
Aqib Talib and Darian Stewart's interceptions helped lead the Broncos to a 19-13 win over the Ravens.