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Broncos Kick Off NFL Season With One For Record Books


Coming into this brand new NFL season, the Denver Broncos were considered bona fide championship contenders and it appears all the title talk has merit. In last night's season opener in Denver, the Broncos clobbered the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The final score was 49-27 and the game featured a record-tying performance by Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.

Joining us now is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So a game that started with a half-hour delay, because of lightning strikes in the area, ends with one of the game's great quarterbacks throwing lightning strikes of his own. Seven touchdown passes. That's almost unbelievable.

GOLDMAN: It really is. I mean he's only the sixth quarterback in history to throw that many. The last guy to do it was Joe Kapp from Minnesota in 1969. And Manning did it without any interceptions in 462 passing yards; a heck of a start to the season. He's also got the best receiving corps in the NFL, and that helps a lot.

MONTAGNE: How surprising is it, Tom, that Denver won this game by such a big margin? I mean, given the Ravens did just win the Super Bowl?

GOLDMAN: They sure did and they beat the Broncos on the way to that Super Bowl win. I think it is surprising that it was so lopsided but there were definitely predictions that the Ravens were going to struggle. After they won the championship they overhauled their lineup. They lost a number of starters on defense from that Super Bowl team, including icons Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. You know, last night was only one game but the Ravens definitely have work to do.

You do have to wonder, Renee, though, if last night's outcome would have been different or at least closer had Baltimore begun its season at home. And that's traditionally what Super Bowl champions do. But there was a scheduling conflict with baseball's Baltimore Orioles. So the Ravens had to fly to Denver where they got walloped.

MONTAGNE: And this game last night had a bit of everything, including what you might call some boneheaded plays by both teams, which is pretty surprising given where they are, how high they are.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, it is surprising I suppose. But one of the things that draws Americans to this crazy and violent game are the unpredictable moments. And there were plenty last night, including Baltimore assistant coaches up in the booth failing to alert John Harbaugh to challenge a play where replays clearly showed that Denver's Wes Welker dropped a pass. They didn't challenge, the play stood, and Denver scored a two plays later. And really, the rout was on after that. It was a real momentum changer.

And then there was the Denver defender who intercepted a pass and should've scored, putting the game away sooner. But he dropped the ball in celebration before crossing the goal line so Ravens got the ball back. The player called it a young mistake, kind of selfish. No one will disagree with that.

MONTAGNE: OK. So last night was just the beginning of the season and there is a whole slate of games coming up this Sunday and Monday night. What do you think is going to be interesting as the league completes its very first week?

GOLDMAN: Well, I'm interested in a Monday night game between Washington and Philadelphia. Will new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly be able to do in the NFL what he did in the college ranks, which is turn the Oregon Ducks into the fastest team in the country? And how will Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III look after his knee injury troubles last season?

I'm also keeping an eye on Cincinnati and Cleveland. There's been a lot of talk in the off-season; let's call it Ohio rising. After years of futility, the Browns could be competitive. Cincinnati's has a strong defense and an offensive passing combination of Andy Dalton, quarterback, and A.J. Green, White receiver - that could be very tough to handle.

MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.