Denver, CO – Peyton Manning put on a performance for the ages, and the Denver Broncos exacted their revenge for last year's heart- breaking loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
Manning became the sixth player in NFL history to throw for seven touchdowns in a single game, as the Broncos spoiled the start of the reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens' title defense with a resounding 49-27 triumph Thursday in the season-opener for both teams at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Five of Manning's touchdown tosses came in the second half, as Denver turned a three-point halftime deficit into a comfortable 25-point cushion by scoring 28 straight points to start the second half.
Manning finished 27-of-42 passing for 462 yards and joined Y.A. Tittle, Joe Kapp, George Blanda, Sid Luckman and Adrian Burk as the only players in NFL history to throw for seven scores in a game.
Kapp was the last to accomplish the feat back on Sept. 28, 1969 with Minnesota against, fittingly, Baltimore.
Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas each hauled in two TDs for the reigning AFC West champion Broncos (1-0), who finished 13-3 last season and had the No. 1 seed in the AFC before being upended by the Ravens in the postseason.
"It's fun to play quarterback when you have a lot of guys working hard and making a lot of plays for you," Manning said. "You never know what's going to happen in a game. I felt like we had to keep scoring."
Welker, a key free agent acquisition by Denver, finished with nine catches for 67 yards in his first game as a Bronco after spending the previous six seasons with rival New England.
Julius Thomas hauled in five passes for 110 yards, while Demaryius Thomas led all receivers with 161 yards on five grabs in the victory.
The defending champion Ravens have a much different look this season, with eight starters gone from last year's squad, including future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The departures were evident on the defensive side of the ball, as the Ravens (0-1) allowed a franchise-record 49 points in their first game since their 34-31 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Joe Flacco finished 34-of-62 passing for 362 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Ray Rice managed just 36 yards and a score on 12 carries for Baltimore, which went 10-6 in the regular season last year before running the table in the playoffs.
"Just one of those nights," Flacco said. "It was a pretty good game for a while and it got away from us."
With his team trailing by three to start the second half, Manning came out firing, finding Knowshon Moreno for eight yards before hitting Welker for 10 more on 3rd-and-9.
Manning's completion to Welker appeared to hit the ground before Welker hauled it in, but before Baltimore could challenge the ruling, Manning rushed the Broncos to the line and hit Demaryius Thomas, who made a defender miss before scampering 34 yards down the sideline.
Two plays later, Manning floated a beautiful pass down the left sideline for Andre Caldwell, who bobbled the ball before bringing it in just inside the left pylon for a 28-yard score and a 21-17 lead.
Denver then forced a quick three-and-out from the Ravens and on the ensuing punt, David Bruton broke through the line and got a hand on Sam Koch's kick, allowing the Broncos to take over at the Baltimore 10.
Manning quickly took advantage of the field position, hitting Welker on consecutive plays, including a 5-yard scoring strike to make it 28-17 early in the third quarter.
Following another Baltimore three-and-out, Manning completed three straight passes to move Denver to the Baltimore 15 before Montee Ball converted a 3rd- and-1 with a 4-yard surge to the Baltimore 2.
After an incompletion to Eric Decker, Manning found Welker all alone in the front right corner of the end zone for a 2-yard score and a 35-17 lead.
Following an exchange of punts, Manning added to his epic performance early in the fourth, finding Demaryius Thomas for a 26-yard score to make it 42-17.
Danny Trevathan picked off a Flacco pass on Baltimore's next touch and returned it 30 yards for what appeared to be a score, but Trevathan let go of the ball just before the goal line and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback to nullify the touchdown.
Flacco then led the Ravens on a quick 5-play, 80-yard march, culminating in a 13-yard TD pass to rookie Marlon Brown to bring Baltimore within 42-24.
After a quick three-and-out from the Broncos, Flacco moved the Ravens deep into Denver territory, but Vonta Leach was stopped for a 6-yard gain on 3rd- and-10, setting up Justin Tucker's 30-yard field goal to make it 42-27.
The Broncos put the game away on their ensuing touch, as Manning tossed a bubble screen out to the left for Demaryius Thomas, who followed a convoy of blockers before outrunning the defense for a 78-yard score to account for the final margin.
"We gave them too many easy things," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who reportedly agreed to a contract extension earlier on Thursday. "Even right down there at the end, fighting like crazy to create a play, and gave them that touchdown at the end. That's the bottom line...you can't give them that many easy plays."
Lightning in the Denver area delayed the start of the game 33 minutes, and after both teams punted on their opening possessions, Flacco guided the Ravens on an 80-yard scoring march to draw first blood.
Bernard Pierce started the trek with a 14-yard surge before Flacco converted a 3rd-and-6 with a 29-yard toss to Torrey Smith for a fresh set of downs.
Smith picked up another first down with a tough 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 from the Denver 13 before Flacco faked a run and found Leach leaking out of the backfield for a 2-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
Denver used a turnover deep in Baltimore territory early in the second to even the score, as Chris Harris stepped in front of a Flacco pass on 3rd-and-9 and made a diving interception to give Denver possession at the Baltimore 24.
Manning turned the pick into points on Denver's next play from scrimmage, as he stood in the pocket and pumped to his right before finding a wide-open Julius Thomas down the middle for a 24-yard score to make it 7-7.
Flacco led the Ravens across midfield on Baltimore's ensuing touch, but overthrew Brown on 3rd-and-5 to force a punt.
Welker went back to field the kick and called for a fair catch at his own 5- yard line, but the sure-handed wideout muffed the punt and the Ravens pounced on it at the Denver 1.
Rice then rushed around the right end and into the end zone for a 1-yard score to give Baltimore a 14-7 lead.
Manning made up for Welker's miscue on Denver's next series, completing all four of his passes on a 6-play, 80-yard scoring march to retie the score.
Julius Thomas shook off a tackler and scampered 44 yards on 1st-and-20 from the Denver 33 before hauling in a 23-yard score from Manning on the next play to knot the score at 14-14.
After an exchange of punts, Baltimore turned its final drive of the half into points, as Flacco converted a pair of third downs to move the Ravens into Denver territory, but Dallas Clark couldn't corral Flacco's pass on 3rd-and- goal from the 7, setting up Tucker's 25-yard field goal to send the Ravens into the break with a 17-14 edge.
Manning has thrown 4-or-more touchdowns in 23 career games, matching the mark for most in NFL history set by Brett Favre ... Leach's touchdown was his first since the 2009 season ... Baltimore wide receiver Jacoby Jones left the game in the second quarter with a right knee sprain and did not return ... Baltimore had won its last five season-openers ... Smith finished with four catches for 92 yards to lead the Ravens ... Moreno carried the ball nine times for 28 yards while adding three catches for 37 yards for Denver.