Chicago, IL – Peyton Manning played in a football game for the first time in 19 months, but in a different uniform than fans are used to seeing.
After spending the entire 2011 season on the sidelines recovering from multiple neck surgeries, Manning saw his 14-year run with the Indianapolis Colts come to an end and he signed with the Denver Broncos.
He wasn't very sharp in his one and only drive, which ended with an interception, but the rest of his squad carried the load as Denver took a 31-3 win over Chicago in the preseason opener for both teams.
Xavier Omon and Lance Ball each had a score on the ground while Jason Hill and Cornelius Ingram each caught one for the Broncos, who went 8-8 last season to win the AFC West and lost to New England in the playoffs after beating Pittsburgh.
Chicago starting quarterback Jay Cutler did not appear in the game. He missed the final six games of last season after fracturing his right thumb. That sent the Bears into a spiral, as they lost their next five games before winning the season finale to finish the season 8-8.
Jason Campbell started the game under center for Chicago and played three series, going just 4-for-5 for 13 yards.
Manning's first pass was dropped by Jacob Tamme, but Willis McGahee followed with an 11-yard run. Manning's next pass was caught by Tamme after it was deflected and he took it 12 yards. After a three-yard run from McGahee, Manning found Eric Decker down the left sideline for 10 yards. After McGahee was stopped for no gain, a holding call pushed the Broncos back 10 yards, but it didn't faze Manning as he hit Decker over the middle on 3rd-and-17 for 19 yards to move the chains and get into the red zone.
Following a two-yard run from McGahee and an incompletion, Denver faced 3rd- and-8 and Manning's pass was deflected and Major Wright came down with it for the interception.
"I think the key to the preseason is how you evaluate and how you evaluate yourself and how you improve throughout the preseason," said Manning. "It doesn't matter what year you are in the NFL, the key to the preseason is to improve."
Denver got on the board on its next touch thanks to a Matt Prater 28-yard score and Ball scored on a two-yard run to cap a seven-play, 57-yard drive in the second quarter to give the team a 10-0 edge at the half.
A three-yard score from Omon and Hill's 19-yard catch from Brock Osweiler in the third quarter pushed the Broncos' lead to 24-0.
Robbie Gould hit a 47-yard field goal in the fourth to get Chicago on the board while Ingram caught a 25-yard score from Adam Weber later in the frame to cap the scoring.