Rapid Reaction: Broncos 49, Ravens 27

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
12:57
AM ET

DENVER -- Some thoughts in the wake of the Denver Broncos' 49-27 victory over Baltimore in the NFL season opener Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High:

What it means: The Broncos, after their playoff misery last January and an offseason filled with turmoil, finally have more than a little momentum to grab on to as they head off into the regular season.

The offense flexed its big-play muscle and flashed some of the pedal-to-the-metal speed, which is going to cause opposing defenses some problems at altitude. Peyton Manning became just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw seven touchdown passes in a single game, and he did it with the merciless, take-what-the-defense-gives-you approach that should worry ever defensive play-caller in the league.

Manning tossed touchdowns to three different wide receivers and the tight end -- two to Wes Welker, two to Julius Thomas, two to Demaryius Thomas and even one to, yes, Andre Caldwell.

Stock watch: America, meet Julius Thomas. The Broncos' third-year tight end caught two touchdown passes and figures to be a rather popular fantasy pick-up in the coming days.

The Broncos thought cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still had it in him to be a No. 1 option if needed, and on a night when Champ Bailey missed the first season opener of his award-studded career, Rodgers-Cromartie was all that. He lined up in Bailey’s left cornerback spot and kept the Ravens’ Torrey Smith in line all evening.

Hit the reset: Sometimes, when pass protection is an issue in the team's preferred three-wide receiver look, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase likes to beef it up for a series to set things right.

After running their first 20 offensive snaps in three-wide formation with only limited success and Manning having taken a hit here and there, the Broncos opened a series with 8:03 left in second quarter in a two-tight end look. They quickly moved the ball, gave Manning time and switched back into three-wide when they got into Ravens territory, and stayed in it for much of the remainder of the evening.

Uh, the arm, it’s fine: Seven touchdown passes, another 400-yard game and a 49-point binge on the season’s opening night for Manning. His receivers have spoken all through the offseason about Manning’s improved arm strength, and he flashed accuracy to all parts of the field Thursday.

What’s next: The game Manning doesn’t particularly like – a showdown against his brother Eli in New York. But they now have nine days to prepare, given they helped lift the curtain on the season.

Jeff Legwold

ESPN Denver Broncos reporter

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