The 2013 NFL regular season kicked off last night with a showdown between the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos, last seen getting knocked out of the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion by those very Ravens. And in addition to featuring two Super Bowl hopefuls, the game matched up two teams defined by their big-money quarterbacks. Everyone knew the Broncos would only go as far as Peyton Manning would take them as soon as he signed with Denver in March 2012, and now that he’s got a Super Bowl MVP and $120 million contract under his belt, the Ravens are firmly Joe Flacco’s team. So in a league where top-flight QB play is more important than ever, for our initial Tale of the Tape, one question stood out: which star quarterback had the better night? Our breakdown is presented by NFL Game Rewind, which lets you relive every NFL game online in HD. See the tale of the tape below, and don’t miss a moment.
The Raw Numbers: Well, this one wound up, shall we say, a bit lopsided. Flacco threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns, but was also intercepted twice and only completed 55 percent of his passes. Manning, on the other hand, threw for 462 yards, was intercepted zero times, and threw – wait for it - seven touchdown passes. You know how many people have ever thrown for more touchdowns than that n an NFL game? Zero. Zero players have done that. Sure, one of his 27 completions shouldn’t have counted, but the man tied an NFL record for touchdown passes in a game. When you do that, you get a…
Huge edge: Manning.
Rubber Arm Award: Ultimately, not nearly enough went Flacco’s way tonight, but it’s not always easy to come through when your team is relying on you to do just about everything. Proof: Flacco attempted 62 passes Thursday night, while the Ravens ran the ball just 21 times. Sure, Flacco’s proved his worth, and the Ravens must have been trying extra-hard to take advantage of Champ Bailey’s absence, but…Flacco probably wasn’t surprised if he woke up with a sore arm this morning.
Best Dejected Face: You might think, “Peyton threw seven TDs. There’s no way even the king of forlorn football face-making got one in tonight.” Well, you’d be wrong:
…but, as you might expect given the score, this is one area where Flacco had him beat.
Overall edge: Manning. He showed why he’s one of the best of all time tonight, turning in one of the best performances of one of the NFL’s great careers. Flacco’s night, meanwhile, mostly served to show how tough it is to produce when an offense gets one-dimensional. This showdown, it turned out, wasn’t much of a contest at all.
Bonus: the new pass rusher faceoff. Remember how Elvis Dumervil left the Broncos after this happened? Well, wouldn’t you know it: he wound up on the Ravens, facing his former team in the first game of the year. The Broncos compensated for his loss by signing former Charger Shaun Phillips. Which of the new faces had the upper hand?
Dumervil: 2 tackles, 1 sack
Phillips: 4 tackles, 2.5 sacks
While both players had their moments, like most aspects of tonight’s game, the Bronco came out on top. Edge: Phillips.
Side-by-side photos via Getty