Broncos offer up reminder of top-dog status in AFC

The Denver Broncos have successfully moved forward from their Super Bowl plight.

Peyton Manning connected on three scoring passes to Julius Thomas in the first half, and the Broncos' defense held off a late Indianapolis Colts rally in a 31-24 win on Sunday Night Football.

In last year's opener, Manning made NFL history with seven touchdown passes. He wasn't nearly that dominant this time around, but the Broncos still look very much like a dynamic offensive team you can expect to put up 30-plus points on a weekly basis.

Ever the perfectionist, Manning will kick himself for two misfires on Denver's final possession that stopped the clock and gave Andrew Luck a chance. The errant throws were uncharacteristic of Manning and a reminder of his nearly perfect 2013 regular season. Delivering a worthy encore won't be easy.

The Broncos got key contributions from three newcomers. DeMarcus Ware proved himself to be worth the investment, at least for one week, tallying 1.5 sacks in his first game not wearing a Cowboys uniform. Aqib Talib had a tipped pass that led to Luck's only interception. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Sanders looks like a perfect fit in Denver's offense, covering well for the suspended Wes Welker. Sanders' diving 40-yard reception in the second quarter was a thing of a beauty.

On Thursday, the Seahawks sent the Packers a rude message on where they stand in the NFC pecking order. The Broncos were unable to send the same type of message to the Colts, a sign the road through the AFC could prove to be more difficult this time around.

This wasn't the dominant performance we've become accustomed to, but Denver remains the AFC's top dog until proven otherwise.

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