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He's in a new city wearing new colors, but Peyton Manning still owns the Ravens.
For the first time all afternoon, Peyton Manning wasn't in a hurry. After his Denver Broncos -- I'm still getting used to saying that -- beat the Ravens, 34-17, at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, he kept a group of reporters waiting for nearly 20 minutes as he changed out of his blue and orange jersey into a light gray pinstriped suit with a cool blue shirt and tie. As he entered the interview room, the signature red stamp that his helmet has left on his legendary forehead for 15 years remained. Manning has tormented the Ravens over the past decade, having defeated them nine straight times now, but under normal circumstances, I'm sure more Baltimore football fans would appreciate him. Given the opportunity to brag about beating the Ravens again, Manning talked about how each win was a team accomplishment, whether he was with the Broncos or staring for the Indianapolis Colts back in the day. He praised the Ravens for being a good football team multiple times, and he seemed to sincerely mean it, even though he probably couldn't name six starters on the Baltimore defense. And he said a win at M&T Bank Stadium is the high-caliber type that will give his Broncos confidence when the playoffs begin next month.
If only he had been nicer to them in the previous three-and-a-half hours. The Ravens got after Manning early, a valiant effort for a defense that has been beset with injuries, but he got his usual Manning mojo back in the second half. He and wide receiver Eric Decker bested the Ravens secondary with a 51-yard scoring play that started with Manning faking another handoff to running back Knowshon Moreno and ended with Decker making an easy catch after he got behind cornerback Cary Williams and safety Ed Reed with a stutter-step double move. On his next drive, Manning completed a sneaky pass up the seam to tight end Joel Dreessen to set up another touchdown. At that point, the rout was on, and Manning spent most of the fourth quarter using his $100 million right arm to stick the ball in the belly of his running back. His final stat line: 17 attempts, 28 completions, 204 yards, and one touchdown. And zero Manning faces.
After the game, as his forehead slowly returned to its natural color, Manning said he is still getting familiar with his new surroundings in Denver after playing 13 seasons in Indianapolis. He also remarked that his arm strength still isn't where he wants it to be after multiple neck surgeries (he did underthrow Decker on a couple of would-be big plays Sunday). That has to be a scary thought to defenders around the NFL. But as Manning rushed to the line Sunday, checked in and out of plays and found soft spots in the Ravens defense, he looked like the same, old Peyton to the other 71,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium.
December 16, 2012