Manning gets an ugly win in Kubiak’s debut as Broncos coach
DENVER (AP) — Not every game Gary Kubiak has won as a coach or quarterback came with high-flying offense and touchdowns at every turn.
If Kubiak’s regular-season debut as Denver’s head coach was any sign, things won’t change much even though he’s got Peyton Manning running his offense now.
Manning’s only touchdown pass went to the wrong team, and the highlights of Denver’s season-opening win were a game-sealing interception and a 17-play, fourth-quarter drive that ate up nearly 11 minutes and produced a field goal.
Winning ugly returned to Denver on Sunday — a 19-13 slugfest over the Baltimore Ravens that looked more like something out of the 1980s, when Kubiak backed up John Elway at quarterback, than what’s been going on here since Manning arrived.
“You guys know you can win a game like you did today,” Kubiak told the Broncos in the locker room after his offense produced a grand total of 219 yards.
The redesigned Broncos — featuring a more-patient offense and a more-aggressive defense — were built this way to take pressure off of Manning, who turned 39 this offseason.
Manning finished 24 for 40 for 175 yards and an interception that Jimmy Smith returned for Baltimore’s only touchdown and a 10-9 lead.
The Broncos regained that lead when Aqib Talib returned Joe Flacco’s interception for Denver’s TD. Former Baltimore safety Darian Stewart’s pick with 28 seconds left stopped the Ravens after Flacco had moved them to the Denver 16.
The offenses combined for a total of six field goals — four for Denver and two for the Ravens.
No big deal, as far as the Broncos were concerned. Their defense allowed only 173 yards.
“I think John Elway had like 115 yards and won the Super Bowl one time,” Talib said. “So it’s definitely possible.”
Five things we learned from Denver’s win on Sunday:
THE LONG DRIVE: The Broncos opened the scoring with a 15-play drive for a field goal. They closed the scoring with a 17-play drive that also netted three points. Last year, they produced a total of four scoring drives that lasted 15 plays or more. “A hell of a drive,” Kubiak said of the fourth-quarter march that ate up 10:56. “That keeps the defense off the field and you’re getting something done.”
SUGGS LIMPS OFF: The Ravens are in need of a new outside linebacker. Clearly, though, there is no replacing Terrell Suggs. The six-time Pro Bowler limped off early in the fourth quarter with what was later diagnosed as a torn left Achilles that will end his season. Cornerback Kyle Arrington called Suggs “the heart and soul of this defense and almost this football team.”
A TALE OF TWO SMITHS: Jimmy Smith scored Baltimore’s only touchdown — a 24-yard return of Manning’s interception in the third quarter. Had Steve Smith held onto Flacco’s last-minute pass in the end zone, Baltimore might have walked away with a win. Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby was in front of Smith and waved his hand to obstruct the receiver’s view. Smith made no excuses, though. “No. 1 receiver, you have to make No. 1 plays, and I didn’t,” he said. He finished with two catches for 13 yards.
LINE OF QUESTIONING: A retooled offensive line that includes rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo remains a work in progress for Denver. Manning was sacked four times (after 17 all last season). The Broncos rushed for just 69 yards. Manning’s reaction: “I’ll just tell you that Baltimore’s got a really good defense.”
LONG RANGE: Brandon McManus has the accuracy to hit 50-yarders, after all. He went 0 for 2 from that range last season — and 1 for 2 in the preseason — but connected on a 57-yard attempt in the first quarter and then a 56-yarder minutes later. McManus joins St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein as the only players in NFL history to hit two field goals of 56 yards or longer in the same game.
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