The Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens looked to be repeating history on Sept. 5. The Broncos had hosted the Ravens nine months earlier and lost a double overtime shootout in the divisional playoffs, and the rematch appeared set to have another duel between Joe Flacco and Peyton Manning. But unlike in last year’s playoffs, Manning and Denver were far more explosive in the second half -- and record setting as well.
Manning’s five second half touchdown passes gave him a record-tying seven for the night, fueling the Broncos to a 49-27 win. Despite throwing 62 times, Flacco hardly had enough to keep up, unlike in his last Super Bowl winning postseason.
The signs didn’t point to this early on -- not when kickoff was delayed by over a half-hour due to a lighting storm, and not when the Ravens had a 7-0 lead after one quarter. But Manning heated up with two second-quarter touchdowns to Julius Thomas, although new favorite target Wes Welker fumbled a punt return that led to a Baltimore touchdown in between.
Flacco and the Ravens salvaged a 17-14 halftime lead, which made it look like another duel was on in Denver. Yet in the first nine minutes of the third quarter, Manning passed for three touchdowns -- two of them to Welker -- while the Ravens suffered from a blocked punt and little production from Flacco.
In the blink of an eye, the rematch of last year’s down-to-the-wire playoff classic became a blowout, with Manning’s latest run at the record book providing the only suspense. He ultimately only tied the record for most touchdown passes in one game, tying the likes of Y.A. Tittle, George Blanda, Sid Luckman and Adrian Burk.
The Broncos scored all their touchdowns on Manning passes, yet that would have changed if linebacker Danny Trevathan hadn’t fumbled away an interception return right at the goal line in the fourth quarter. However, it was the only thing that went right for the Ravens in the second half, as nothing could beat the Broncos but themselves.
Denver also beat itself with its blown coverage of Flacco’s tying touchdown to Jacoby Jones this past January. But if the Broncos can stop getting out of their own way, can anyone else stop them this time around?