ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --By the time Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and safety Matt Elam recognized the screen pass and slid over to try to make a play, it was too late.
Demaryius Thomas was into the open and off to the races, and there was no one wearing a Ravens jersey that would catch him.
Thomas' 78-yard catch-and-go touchdown from Peyton Manning late in the fourth quarter punctuated the Broncos' 49-27 win over the Ravens on Thursday night, giving Manning his record-tying seventh touchdown pass of the game.
It also provided a definitive reminder of how Thomas' big-play potential can ignite at almost any time.
After being limited to just one catch for 13 yards in the first half, Thomas erupted with a handful of highlights in the second half, finishing the game with five catches for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
After the game, Thomas said his performance was the product of remaining patient, trying to free up plays for his teammates and striking when given the opportunity.
"I guess it was the way they played the defense was how we would play it," Thomas said. "I'm out there to try to get my teammates open if I've got to do that. It was just whatever happened and I'm good with it. As long as we get the 'W.'"
And when those opportunities opened up, Thomas fully exploited them – and also fully showcased the spectrum of threats he poses as an offensive playmaker.
His 34-yard reception early in the third quarter – when he hauled in a Manning pass, turned up the field and then suddenly stopped his motion, changed directions and faked out a pair defenders in the process – set up the Broncos' first touchdown of the second half.
Later, in the fourth quarter, Thomas beat Ravens cornerback Corey Graham in one-on-one coverage and hauled in a rainbow from Manning, scoring a 26-yard touchdown that put the Broncos up 42-17.
And finally, Thomas closed the night out with his 78-yard touchdown – a play that he noted he was able to make because he now feels the healthiest that he has in years.
"That was the main thing, just being healthy, showing what I can do," he said. "I'm trying to stay healthy and maybe show more."
Thomas noted that the sting of last season's AFC Divisional Round playoff loss to the Ravens provided a little extra motivation.
"It did add a little fire in the belly because (the loss to the Ravens in last season's playoffs) was the last game we really played beside the preseason games," he said. "I told myself that I'd remember this day. Came back, had another chance and took care of business."
And as for the record-setting performance by his quarterback, Thomas had no shortage of admiration for Manning – adding that it was a memorable experience to be a part of history.
"That's amazing. That's just Peyton doing what he does best. To be a part of that, I feel I made history or something like that," Thomas chuckled. "It was great, he was out there doing what he does best. Guys were getting open and making plays for him. It was fun."