DENVER | Well, at least the night wasn’t a total flop.
Peyton Manning opened the evening with a couple of belly flops, then moved on to what he does best.
Splish-splashing through the rain, the Broncos quarterback engineered a seven-play touchdown drive against the second-team defense Saturday during Denver’s scrimmage, capping it with a 4-yard scoring pass to Demaryius Thomas.
Manning went 4 for 6 for 56 yards during his 12 plays.
This was Manning’s first appearance on his home field since last season’s upset playoff loss to Baltimore in 12-degree weather. Though the temperature was some 60 degrees warmer, there were a few similarities.
Manning wore a glove to get a better hold on the football, the way he did at the end of last season when it was the freezing cold, not the driving rain, that affected his grip.
“Balls were slick and so I thought it was something that I needed to do,” he said. “I thought I threw it pretty decent considering the weather.”
As for his touchdown throw to Thomas — it was across the body and into quadruple coverage, similar to the ill-fated pass he directed toward Brandon Stokley against Baltimore that got picked off and set up the Ravens’ winning score in the 38-35 double-overtime loss.
This time, a much better result.
“He’s kind of the third read and he’s coming across the back of the end zone,” Manning said of Thomas. “Anytime you catch that kind of pass, you know you might take a hit after that. For him to hold onto the ball, that’s a heck of a play.”
To say the stakes were different for this one is an understatement, and Manning made that quite clear beforehand.
With rain coming down sideways and the scrimmage in jeopardy of being cancelled, the 37-year-old quarterback took to the field and did a couple of stomach-first slides, much to the delight of the thousands of fans who stuck out the rain.
In Manning’s world, even that bit of fun and games was subject to critique.
“Pretty decent, I think,” he said. “Got pretty good range, 5-yard slides. Felt like a kid. I don’t know the last time I got a chance to do that on a professional venue like that.”
Coach John Fox reported no injuries and the turf held up nicely despite the deluge.
Overall, it was time well spent, especially considering the Broncos got a chance to practice in rainy conditions, the likes of which they know they might see later in the season.
“You’ve got to concentrate more, think more. You’ve got to know what you’re doing,” Thomas said. “Getting that kind of weather was good. It kind of helped some people out.”
The first-team offense was on the field for 12 plays — probably about the same number it will run Thursday in the preseason opener at San Francisco.
Manning threw three of his six passes toward his newest target, Wes Welker, the first of which Welker didn’t handle after peeling open on a nicely run down-and-out pattern. Later, Welker picked up 15 yards on a receiver screen. Manning’s only other incompletion was a try for Welker in the end zone broken up by Omar Bolden’s solid coverage.
Denver’s first-team defense locked down the Broncos’ second-team offense, quarterbacked by Brock Osweiler. True to Fox’s word on the eve of training camp, linebacker Von Miller was on the field with the first team while Denver awaits word on the appeal of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL drug policy.
On one play, Miller slipped through the line and would’ve sacked Osweiler had contact on quarterbacks been allowed.
The linebacker said he received a warm welcome from the fans.
“I felt like a rock star,” Miller said. “I keep taking it one day at a time, keep working, so I can keep doing great stuff for them.”
Notes: Manny Ramirez started at center with the first team. He is joining recently signed Ryan Lilja and Steve Vallos in one of the most interesting position battles with Dan Koppen and J.D. Walton out with injuries. … RBs Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball each took snaps with the first-team offense. Hillman had a 12-yard run and Ball had a 9-yard run.