- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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DENVER -- A look back at a tremendous game in Denver on Sunday night:
What it means: The Peyton Manning era began in rousing fashion and the Denver Broncos opened the season with a huge victory. Manning rallied Denver in the fourth quarter. While Manning is the story of the night, this was a complete team win for Denver. This was a great start of the season for the new-look Broncos.
Manning is back: Manning was terrific in his first game since the 2010 season. Even though he missed all of last season and is attempting his comeback at the age of 36, Manning looked like he played a meaningful game.
Tracy Porter helps Manning this time: Denver sealed the game when Porter jumped a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to give Denver a 31-19 lead with 1:58 remaining. In the Super Bowl in 2010, Porter sealed a New Orleans victory over Indianapolis when he intercepted a Manning pass and returned it for a touchdown late in the game. This time, Porter helped Manning cap his first game in Denver with a win.
Manning-Thomas connection is just fine: There was a lot of talk in the preseason that Manning and receiver Demaryius Thomas were having trouble connecting. No problem on Sunday night. Thomas had five catches for 110 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter that gave Denver the lead.
Denver’s defense is stout when needed: This Denver defense looks tough. Yes, Roethlisberger had his moments. But he is a future Hall of Famer. He’ll have his moments in every game he plays. Denver’s defense toughened when it had to and it played well in all phases of the game. Stalwarts Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller were all great, but newcomers Derek Wolfe, Porter and Mike Adams were outstanding as well.
What’s next: Denver plays at the Atlanta Falcons on “Monday Night Football” in Week 2. This will be the Falcons’ second straight game against an AFC West opponent. They torched Kansas City, 40-24, on Sunday. After dealing with Roethlisberger, the Denver defense now has to tussle with a powerful Atlanta offense in what should be a wild atmosphere.
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