Originally posted on BroncoTalk  |  Last updated 8/10/12

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning throws before the Broncos' 2012 preseason opener against the Chicago Bears. The Broncos routed the Bears 31-3 in Manning's Broncos debut. (Andrew Mason/MaxDenver.com)

The hit everyone was waiting for never happened. Left tackle Ryan Clady would rather be penalized than see Peyton Manning get zinged during the Denver Broncos‘ first preseason game.

“Peyton gets creamed or I take a 10-yard penalty?” Clady asked rhetorically [via Mike Klis]. “Peyton gets clobbered or I maul this guy?”

The answer was simple, and Clady took the (suspect) holding penalty, just as the new Broncos offense everyone was waiting to see was just getting into rhythm. It may have been frustrating to fans to see Manning’s perfect 11-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas get brought back, but it was smart on Clady’s part.

With Peyton Manning under center, you can get those yards back.

That’s exactly what Manning did in the first quarter Thursday as the Broncos opened their 2012 preseason against the Chicago Bears, routing their NFC opponent 31-3. Manning completed four consecutive passes (not including the Thomas catch, which was called back) to move the Broncos 50 yards downfield in his first and only drive, including a 19-yard pass to Eric Decker on 3rd and 17 that showed the type of passing prowess fans have been drooling over.

It wasn’t all positive though. Manning finished the night four for seven for 44 yards, and his last throw was thrown slightly behind receiver Brandon Stokley. The ball was tipped by the Bears’ D.J. Moore into the waiting arms of Major Wright for an interception at the Bears goal line.

“I take the blame,” Stokley told reporters. “I didn’t run a great route and the guy made a pretty good play and tipped it up in the air. It wasn’t (Manning’s) fault; it was more my fault with the route that I ran.”

It was the end of Manning’s work for the night. Manning and the first-team offense would not contribute to the rout in Chicago, while all three backup quarterbacks led touchdown drives.

But it was Jack Del Rio‘s stifling defense, allowing the Bears offense to enter Broncos territory only once before the fourth quarter and never surrendering a third down conversion, that most impacted the final score. Rookie Derek Wolfe was an uncompromising force in multiple positions on the defensive line, netting two sacks. Malik Jackson, Jeremy Beal, and Robert Ayers also had impressive days for defensive linemen, while linebacker Nate Irving was a force at linebacker, leading the team in tackles.

You take preseason victories with a grain of salt, and you remember that the Bears were without Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brian Urlacher, and Julius Peppers Thursday. But you find encouragement in a decisive victory and impressive performances on all fronts, even if The Man of the Hour ended his drive with the football in the wrong hands.

“(Manning) was remarkable,” Denver coach John Fox said in halftime quotes distributed by the team. “He came back — he’s worked very hard. He hasn’t played football in [almost] two years. I thought it was a good first drive in these conditions — it was sloppy. It was sloppy by the receivers as far as the conditions but I thought it was a very good first outing.”

Were you happy with Manning’s performance or disappointed in that last pick? Who among the backup QB’s looked best? Dish it out in the comments, and come back for BT Game Balls soon.

(Photo courtesy MaxDenver.com)


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