He'd never had a night like this, though.
Manning threw seven touchdown passes in directing Denver to a 49-27 rout of the Baltimore Ravens, showing the Super Bowl champs and the rest of the league Thursday night just why the Broncos are the trendy pick to win it all this season.
They walloped the Ravens behind the biggest day by an NFL quarterback in 44 years, when Manning's father, Archie, was still running the offense at Ole Miss.
After eight long months - plus 33 minutes because of a lightning storm - Manning recovered from a slow start to pick apart the Ravens' retooled defense that said goodbye to seven starters after winning the Super Bowl, including the heart and soul of that unit in Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.
Manning threw two TD passes each to Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, plus one to Bubba Caldwell.
"I felt like we had to keep scoring because Baltimore can score at any time," said Manning, who was 27 of 42 for 462 yards with no interceptions for an off-the-charts quarterback rating of 141.1.
Manning was the biggest reason for this blowout, but there were plenty of other factors:
PRESSURE POINTS: The Broncos harassed Joe Flacco even without their Pro Bowl pass-rush duo that collected 29½ of their league-leading 52 sacks last year.
Elvis Dumervil bolted for Baltimore in free agency after his fax-foul up in Denver and All-Pro linebacker Von Miller got suspended for six games.
Shaun Phillips had a pair of sacks and shared another with Wesley Woodyard in his Denver debut and Robert Ayers also got a sack of Flacco, whose first game since signing a six-year, $120.6 million deal was a dud.
Dumervil had one of Baltimore's three sacks, dumping Manning for a 7-yard loss to a chorus of boos.
"It would have been better if we had won," Dumervil said.
NOT-SO SPECIAL TEAMS: Ravens returner Jacoby Jones got hurt when his own teammate ran into him as he was about to field a punt in the second quarter, and David Bruton ignited Denver's dismantling of the Ravens with a blocked punt at the Baltimore 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Manning put Denver ahead for good 21-17.
Jones, the hero of Baltimore's upset of the Broncos in the playoffs eight months ago, wasn't available as Flacco's deep threat after he sprained his right knee when Brynden Trawick plowed into him on a second-quarter punt return.
"I talked to him about it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, "tried to teach him that he's got to be willing to turn his head. That's an experience problem. He's an inexperienced guy." The Broncos were without Champ Bailey but they didn't miss him, especially after Jones went out.
WELKER'S DEBUT: Wes Welker's Denver debut got off to a rocky start when he muffed a punt at his own 1-yard line, leading to Ray Rice's easy touchdown run that put Baltimore ahead 14-7.
The jewel of Denver's offseason additions quickly atoned by scoring two short touchdowns in the third quarter as the Broncos began running away with it. He finished with a game-best nine catches for 67 yards.
He got open underneath all night for Manning just like he did for Tom Brady when he was in New England.
"We put a lot of time into trying to get some rapport," Manning said. "It's nice to be able to put that work to good use and be able to get some touchdowns tonight."
BALTIMORE BEATDOWN: Nobody had ever put up 49 points on the Ravens in their 18-year history, and it could have been worse.
Broncos new weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan fumbled the football just before crossing the goal line with what would have been a 30-yard TD interception return of Flacco's pass in the fourth quarter.
The ball bounced out of the end zone for a touchback instead of a touchdown.
"It was a dumb play in retrospect," Trevathan said. "It's not going to happen again. I was just so in the moment, it was kind of selfish of me. I'm growing from it and I'm not going to let nobody stop me from getting better."
THOMAS & THOMAS: While it took a while for Manning's new threesome of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Welker to get going, tight end Julius Thomas made a huge impact early on, collecting his first two TD catches in the NFL.
His first was a 24-yarder and his second a 23-yarder, accounting for all of Denver's points in the first half. He finished with five catches for 110 yards.
Thomas had just one catch for 5 yards in his first two seasons in the NFL, when he was bothered by ankle problems.
"I think we all visualize great games," Thomas said.
His big breakout came just hours after news broke that he had been arrested last week for failing to appear in court on a traffic offense in January.
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