But last night - I was back!
It was great to see orange back at Mile High as the crowd glowed with anticipation of the 2013 campaign. I wanted to share my thoughts, with you, about the atmosphere and the game.
Ruminations from the Broncos 49-27 blowout of the Ravens:
-Driving downtown and passing light rail stations along I-25, it was sweet to see so many people dressed in orange and rocking various Broncos gear. Getting to the stadium and seeing the same thing really shows how much people love the team and how people can come together for something as simple as football. I love sports.
Among the awesome Steve Atwater, Von Miller, and Champ Bailey jerseys around me, I still managed to get a shot of some lady that was rooting for, I guess, the Jail-Blazers of the early 2000s? I also forgot how much I dislike having to push through crowds to get into games, but if you bring some aggression - you will be fine.
-One of the best sights these sore eyes have seen:
A view from my folks' new seats in 242 - basically between the uprights in the South Stands - where our seats were at the old Mile High. My parents changed up their seats to get a little more in the middle this season. It really is amazing seeing the fans all in orange; unique too. I think a crowd looks best when it's set apart a little bit and the orange sets Denver apart from other NFL teams (lots of black in Cincinnati, dark blue in Chicago, and brown in Cleveland).
-With 3:39 left in the first quarter - John Fox elected to punt instead of attempting, what would have been, a 56-yard field from Matt Prater. Prater hit four field goals from 50+ last season, his longest being 53-yards. Fox is still conservative. I thought it might have meant something, but Baltimore was forced to punt on the ensuing drive.
-Julius Thomas is a man-beast. He finished with 110 yards - the longest being a 44-yarder that he did all the heavy lifting on - and two touchdowns in his first career start. Guys like Dario aka @dndenver, Adam Kinney, and Mario Vetanze have long been talking about Thomas and it was great to see his coming out party. He's listed at 6'5" and 250 pounds, but I coulda swore he was 8-feet tall if he was an inch I tell ya! I can't wait to see more of him this season.
-Manning's seven touchdowns! It's still hard to believe that seven touchdown passes is the most in NFL single-game history (Manning now shares that mark with five other QBs) - it's even harder to believe that the previous five were all accomplished before 1969. In a league that has or had Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway, and Manning - you'd think more than one of them would have been on that list ... well, now Manning is on it.
-Peyton still had some wounded duck passes in the Ravens game, but he was as accurate as ever and put the ball where it needed to be during his 27-42 for 462 yards, 7 TDs, and 0 interceptions. Special game.
-It's fun rooting for Wes Welker.
I wasn't sure that I would like cheering for a former Patriots player, but Neil Smith taught me that it can be done. When the former Chiefs' star came to the Broncos in 1997 I had mixed emotions. It didn't take me long to start rooting for Smith (who had 8.5 sacks in '97) and it took even less time to start rooting for one of Peyton's newest favorite targets. Welker caught 9 passes for 67 yards and scored 2 TDs in his debut - he also was tied for a team-high 11 targets, with Demaryius Thomas. I guess I'll forgive Welker for trying to field a punt inside his own 10-yardline and for fumbling it.
-The defense looked excellent, iffy, and everything in-between. The run-D looked pretty stellar, holding the Ravens to 58 total yards and 2.8 yards per carry. Ray Rice's longest run was just 12 yards and he only went for 36 yards on 12 carries. The Broncos typically play well in Denver against the run, no matter who is on the field for the Broncos, but it'd be nice to see that trend continue.
The pass-D was a bit shaky as Joe Flacco went 34-62 for 362 yards. The two interceptions were nice, the four sacks were excellent, and the pressure was good - for the most part. I was a bit nervous from the fact that Flacco's accuracy and decision making were more of an issue than the pass rush, early on. The secondary will be tested, a lot.
-Duke Ihenacho, beast!
-Derek Wolfe came up with 4 tackles on the night, but the "Woooolllllfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff" howl cheer he gets after his name is announced ... rad!
-Danny Trevathan's infamous pick-no six fumble was very DeSean Jackson-esque - the bad play could have been compounded had Wesley Woodyard been seriously hurt (after Brandon Stokley barreled into his legs, trying to get the ball). Lesson learned? Hopefully. Missing out on your first touchdown, getting chewed out by coaches and ripped on by teammates? Punishment enough.
-When Demaryius ran that 78 yard touchdown to ice the game, I did turn to my mom and say, "That guy is on my fantasy team!" It's fun to root for Broncos in Fantasyland, while at the same time feeling like a total nerd for doing so.
What a tremendous win and a great welcome back to football for the 2013 season.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter