Peyton Manning threw a couple of first-half thunderbolts in last night's opening game of the NFL season, tossing touchdown strikes to tight end Julius Thomas before intermission.
Outside of Denver, where Broncos fans know that Thomas has emerged as an athletic, sturdy target in the mold of San Diego's Antonio Gates, the collective Twitterverse reaction was, "WHO?!"
Ah, but Manning was just getting warmed up, and so were the Broncos.
By the time they put the finishing touches on their 49-27 throttling of defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore in Denver, Manning had racked up an NFL-record-tying seven TD passes.
You read that right.
For perspective, we turn to the 2012 Chiefs, who bumbled their way to eight TD throws ALL SEASON: six by Matt Cassel, who's since been shipped off to Minnesota and a backup role behind Christian Ponder, and two by Brady Quinn, who's now a New York Jet.
Ouch. No wonder they went 2-14.
Manning's big night -- 27 for 42 for 462 yards -- also included end-zone hookups with ex-Patriot Wes Welker (twice), Damaryius Thomas (twice) and Andre Caldwell.
The only guy who missed out on the fun was Eric Decker, who snagged 13 touchdown receptions in 2012 but had a couple of key drops last night -- including one that would've gone for a score.
As for Peyton, his epic evening stands as the first seven-TD game the NFL has seen since 1969, when the Vikings' Joe Kapp torched Baltimore (the Colts, back then, not the Ravens) for seven touchdowns. Manning became the sixth man to record a seven-TD passing performance, joining an august club that counts only Sid Luckman (1943), Adrian Burke (1954), George Blanda (1961), Y.A. Tittle (1962), and Kapp (1969) as fellow members.
The Chiefs, of course, get to see Manning up close and personal twice this season: at Denver Nov. 17 and at Arrowhead Dec. 1.
And this Sunday, with new starter Alex Smith at the controls in Jacksonville, they can begin their likely march toward eclipsing the lowest season passing-TD total in franchise history.
Jeff Rosen, The Star