There was probably no one more excited for pre-season football to begin again than Peyton Manning. The Denver Broncos quarterback, seeing his first action since the end of the 2010 season, looked very much like the quarterback he had been for his first 14 seasons in the league. Against the Chicago Bears, Manning went just 4-7 for 44 yards and one interception during his only drive on the field but those numbers certainly didn't tell the whole story for those us watching the game live.
Accuracy Still Not Totally There
There were a few passes that I'm sure that Manning would have liked to have back on that first drive. More than a few were tipped and it was difficult to tell if that was due to great defense, poor route running by the receiver, or poor ball placement or timing by Manning. The outside fade into the end zone to Demaryius Thomas was a little too flat and far and Thomas was unable to make the grab for the touchdown. The quick strike to Brandon Stokely that resulted in an interception was large due to the fact that the ball was a half-step behind the receiver. Part of those issues are simply getting accustomed to the speed of a game (and his own teammates in a live game) that he hasn't seen truly live in over a year. I'd expect to see these accuracy/timing issues continue for a while for Peyton but ultimately he'll work them out.
Jacob Tamme Favorite Tight End Target?
Tamme was targeted twice in the first three plays in that first drive with Manning in as quarterback. The first toss was knocked down by the defensive player. The second pass to Tamme was actually deflected again but Tamme showed his athleticism (and the hands that will make him one of Manning's favorite targets) by still catching the ball.
Manning Spread The Ball Around
Of Manning's seven passes, two went to tight end Jacob Tamme, two to wide receiver Eric Decker, one to running back Lance Ball, one to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, and one to wide receiver Brandon Stokely. It was a nice spreading around of the ball and clearly Manning looked like he had the ability to make all the throws. He was loose and nimble in the pocket.
In the end, despite the red zone interception, I think it was an excellent beginning to Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos career. First of all, he didn't get hurt. Second of all, he looked in complete control as usual and the offense looked crisp and smooth for the first pre-season game. The running game was nicely mixed in with the passes and the Broncos used up over five minutes on the clock. Such a difference from last year when there were so many three-and-out drives. It was a small taste for Broncos fans, but it was smooth and delightful and left us wanting a lot, lot more.
Julie is a featured NFL contributor and Broncos beat contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A lifelong football fan, she became a Broncos fan upon moving to Denver in 2001.