If Bill Maher plans to throw out any "New Rules" regarding the NFL, he might want to start with this one: We should all agree to call the Baltimore Ravens the reigning Super Bowl champions and not the defending kingpins.
That's not just semantics and there is a difference.
The group which showed up to play jobber during an embarrassing, 49-27 setback against Peyton Manning and Co. in Denver on Thursday was far different from the one that edged Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Eight starters are gone from last year's Ravens team, including the incalculable leadership provided by future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, as well as safety Ed Reed and offensive stalwarts like center Matt Birk and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The defections were particularly evident on the defensive side of the ball against the Broncos. The Ravens allowed a franchise-record 49 points in their first real game since their triumph over the 49ers in New Orleans and looked lost in the second half when Denver sped things up.
Manning put on a performance for the ages, becoming just the became the sixth player in NFL history to throw for seven touchdowns in a game.
"Peyton has had a lot of amazing nights," Broncos coach John Fox said. "It's incredible. This one was pretty phenomenal -- seven touchdown passes."
Five of Manning's scoring tosses came in the second half when he turned up the tempo as Denver overcame a 33-minute lightning delay at the outset of the contest and turned a three-point halftime deficit into a comfortable 25-point cushion by scoring 28 straight points to start the second half.
"I don't know that we wore them out," Fox said. "They had some new guys, we had some new guys. Whether we tired them out or not? I can't answer that. You'd have to ask them. But it does put a little more pressure on the defense as far as getting lined up and getting things communicated, especially in a loud stadium like ours."
"We got into a good rhythm," Manning added.
Receiver Wes Welker, the free agent pickup from New England who caught two of Manning's TDs in his Denver debut, offered a little more
"We were getting gassed, too, so it was going both ways," the veteran said. "But, it does slow a pass rush down and different things like that. Luckily it worked out for us today."
When the carnage was over, Manning's stat line read 27-of-42 passing for 462 yards as he joined Y.A. Tittle, Joe Kapp, George Blanda, Sid Luckman and Adrian Burk in NFL lore.
The only thing missing was referee Walt Coleman waiving things off.
Kapp was the last to throw seven TDs almost 44 years ago when he turned the trick for the Minnesota Vikings against the Baltimore Colts back on Sept. 28, 1969.
"Yeah, Joe Kapp -- great Canadian quarterback out of Cal. Kicked the crap out of a guy on YouTube a couple of years ago (former CFL star and pro wrestler Angelo "King Kong" Mosca), too," Manning laughed. "I don't know. You never know what is going to happen in a game. I felt like we had to keep scoring; Baltimore is an explosive offense."
Welker, Demaryius Thomas and someone called Julius Thomas each hauled in two TDs for the Broncos, who finished 13-3 last season and had the No. 1 seed in the AFC before being upended by the Ravens in the famous "Mile High Miracle" game.
Among the Thomases, Julius hauled in five passes for 110 yards, while Pro Bowler Demaryius led all receivers with 161 yards on five grabs.
"We are going to go out and watch the film and see what they were doing," Ravens cornerback Corey Graham said. "It was one of those games where everything they did went right, and everything we did went wrong. It's a rough one, and for me personally, it's probably one of the worst games I've ever played in my life. We are going to go watch the film and find a way to get better and correct it."
Others will be watching the film also, but adding Julius Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound runaway locomotive in the open field, to a receiving corps already featuring Demaryius Thomas, Welker and Eric Decker almost seems unfair to the opposition.
"It will be interesting to see how teams play Julius all season," Manning said. "He is a big guy, he definitely will make teams have a conversation, and that is what you want. You want guys that make teams have a discussion. 'How are we going to handle this guy?'"
Ravens QB Joe Flacco tried to keep up with Manning, completing 34-of-62 passes for 362 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, but he had little help.
Baltimore's deity was asleep at the wheel this time around and the lone miracle the Ravens could muster was stopping Manning from throwing another TD.
"Just one of those nights," the Super Bowl MVP said. "It was a pretty good game for a while and it got away from us."