DENVER --**Well, Peyton Manning has finally beaten the Colts.
He had to wait until his second try, but the Broncos' 31-24 win Sunday night made Manning only the second quarterback in NFL history to beat all 32 teams in the league, in addition to Brett Favre.
"I think it means you have to be old," Manning said with a wry smile when asked about the milestone. "(You) have to be 38 years old, probably at least, to beat all 32 teams. So I don't think I'm going to have that one up on my mantel or anything, let's put it that way."
So the 17-year veteran isn't making a big deal of a rather rare accomplishment. What would you expect? But that perspective is probably somewhat a product of what turned into an inconsistent performance by the Broncos in the season opener.
Very little went wrong for the team in a first half that brought a 24-7 lead behind three touchdowns from Julius Thomas, which came in a 12:17 span in the second quarter.
"Julius is a guy we've got to try to get a ball to no matter what defense they're playing," Manning said of his tight end. "I certainly think he can be a matchup problem for certain defenses."
"Good game by him, good start. I think all the hard work he put into this offseason paid off tonight for him."
Before a touchdown drive by the Colts in the waning seconds of the half, Denver's offense had picked up 17 first downs while the Colts' offense had run just 17 plays. Even after Andrew Luck's 9-yard touchdown run before halftime, the Broncos were in a good position, ready to receive the second-half kickoff with a 17-point lead.
But a quick three-and-out after the halftime whistle was the first of several frustrating drives for Denver's offense in the final two quarters, with just one of the six meaningful possessions (excluding the game-ending kneeldowns) gaining more than 25 yards.
"I don't think there was a huge change in our scheme or their scheme, we just didn't execute as well," Manning said of the second-half lull.
The Broncos' lone score came at the end of a 48-yard touchdown drive, with Montee Ball using a second effort to dive across the goal line. Though it extended the Broncos' lead to 21 points with under 10 minutes to play, the score proved critical.
"That drive ended up being the difference," Manning said. "Thankfully, our defense came up with some big stops."
Check out the best shots from Sunday night's game between the Broncos and Colts.
Despite allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the defense stiffened at the right times late in the game. Rahim Moore dove to make his second interception of the game after Colts tight end Coby Fleener couldn't corral a pass. A few minutes later, rookie cornerback Bradley Roby made the game-clinching play, diving for a pass breakup of Luck's pass to 14-year veteran Reggie Wayne on fourth down. The timely plays on both sides ultimately proved enough for Denver to open the season with a win.
"It's something we'll definitely learn from and we've got to find a way to play all four quarters as an offense," Manning said. "Thank goodness our defense picked us up when the offense wasn't doing their job quite as well."
Even so, the wacky shifts in big plays and momentum throughout the game happened in sort of a backwards way for the Broncos.
"I mean usually, opening night, in my history, you come out a little sluggish because it's opening night and guys have nerves and jitters, but we came out playing at such a high level," Manning said. "We set the bar up pretty high in the first half and so it was disappointing in the second half."
"For whatever reason, we just couldn't quite get over the hump."
Inconsistency aside, the Broncos will certainly take the win, with the result making it easier to use negative plays as learning experiences rather than missed opportunities that linger in the back of the mind. Whether it was against his old team or not, it's clear Manning is just happy to get a win in Week 1.
"It's a different year," he said. "It's good to be 1-0 and we've got the Chiefs division game next week. We've got a lot of things we need to improve on, but it's a good start. Never take winning for granted."