DENVER -- It wasn’t a game-winner in overtime in the playoffs.
But it changed momentum of Peyton Manning’s first game in Denver.
Manning hit receiver Demaryius Thomas for a 71-yard touchdown play to give the Broncos 14-13 lead over the Steelers with 5:29 to go in the third quarter Sunday night.
Thomas beat Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor. It’s the same player Thomas beat on his 80-yard pass from former Denver quarterback Tim Tebow on the first offensive play in overtime of a wild-card game last January.
In addition to giving Denver’s the lead, it was a milestone for Manning. It was his 40th career touchdown pass in the regular season. He is the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 touchdowns and was the quickest to accomplish the feat. It is Manning’s 209th NFL game. Dan Marino hit No. 400 in his 227th game and Brett Favre threw his 400th touchdown pass in his 228th game.
Until that touchdown, the Steelers were utilizing the best way to beat Manning. They were keeping him off the field.
From the 5:16 mark of the second quarter to the 6:05 mark of the third quarter, Manning and the Denver Broncos’ offense has one snap and that was a kneel-down at the end of the half. Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers on an eight minute, 55-secod drive to open the second half that culminated in a field.
Roethlisberger has been terrific, especially on third down. The Steelers have converted 8-of-13 third-down plays.
However, 36 seconds into Manning’s first drive of the second half, the game changed.