COMMENTARY | There was a great deal of controversy in Denver in the days leading up to Thursday's NFL kickoff, as banners depicting both Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco were hung along the façade of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Then, in the thirty-two second countdown leading into the TV broadcast of the game, a player from each of the 32 NFL teams appeared for each number in the countdown: the final two were Shannon Sharpe of the Broncos at the two second mark and Ray Lewis of the Ravens for the final second, yet another move that drew the ire of the nearly 77,000 orange clad fans in attendance.
There was a big game feel right from the opening kickoff, which was delayed nearly an hour due to a lightning storm in the regional forecast. The delay seemed to affect both teams from the start but the much hyped Broncos offense seemed to struggle more to get into a rhythm in the first half as the lack of a consistent running game allowed Baltimore to tailor their defensive packages to prevent Manning from making the pre-snap adjustments he's so accustomed to making.
But if the Broncos were a little hungover from the seemingly unprecedented hype surrounding their offense heading into the season, they emerged from that hangover to put on a clinic in the second half as Manning connected for five touchdown passes to tie an NFL record with 7 touchdowns as the Broncos dismantled the Ravens, 49-27.
Manning had the passing offense clicking early as he hooked up for two early touchdowns with breakout tight end Julius Thomas, but the home team found themselves down at halftime to the defending Super Bowl champions, 17-14, largely due to a couple of miscues and the lack of a running attack.
But Manning took over in the second half as momentum swung back in favor of the home team, as Manning hooked up with Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker for a quartet of TDs and Andre Caldwell added another and the Ravens defense looked to be reeling from one of the most impressive passing performances in league history. Manning finished with 462 yards on 27/42 passing.
But a major question still remains for the Denver offense heading into their Week 2 showdown with the New York Giants: what can the Broncos expect from their running game this season?
Denver's three headed monster at running back consisting of Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman, and Montee Ball combined for just 65 yards on 21 carries. Moreno led the team with 28 yards on nine carries and also added three receptions for 37 yards. In a move that surprised many, Moreno actually earned the start despite being listed third on the team's depth chart, a decision based largely on his experience and abilities as a pass blocker.
With none of the three making a strong enough case to be the primary back during training camp or the preseason, it's likely Fox and the Broncos continue to utilize a running back by committee until one back emerges as the clear go-to back for one of the league's Super Bowl favorites. Fox stated after the game that the team views itself as having three starting running backs.
Andrew Majors lives in Denver and is an award-winning journalist who currently works as a content strategist at a digital marketing firm. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewMajors
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