The questions surrounding Peyton Manning last year were all about his right arm. This season, they were about his shoulders — as in, are they broad enough to carry the Denver Broncos in Von Miller’s absence?
Manning provided an emphatic answer Thursday night, dissecting Baltimore’s refurbished defense with a performance the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the 1960s.
With the Broncos’ All-Pro linebacker sitting out the first game of his six-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, Denver’s offense more than picked up the slack in the 49-27 rout of the Super Bowl champions. Manning joined Y.A. Tittle of the Giants as the only QBs to throw seven touchdown passes in a game without an interception. Tittle accomplished the feat 51 years ago.
‘‘It’s something ridiculous,’’ said tight end Julius Thomas, on the receiving end of Manning’s first two TD throws. ‘‘I think a couple guys were joking, we were saying it’s like [the John Madden videogame]— the only time you get to throw seven touchdowns.’’
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Manning is the sixth QB to toss seven TD passes in a game and the first since Minnesota’s Joe Kapp in 1969.
Manning overcame a slow start and a 33-minute lightning delay to throw for 462 yards. He completed 27 of 42 passes, also throwing two TD passes each to Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, plus one to Bubba Caldwell. Welker, in his first game after six years catching passes from Tom Brady, finished with nine grabs for 67 yards.
Jaguars wait on Gabbert
After watching Blaine Gabbert take dozens of snaps and throw hundreds of passes this week, the Jaguars still aren’t ready to declare him healthy enough for the season opener. Coach Gus Bradley listed Gabbert as questionable for Sunday’s game against Kansas City, adding that the former first-round draft pick probably will be a game-day decision. Gabbert is recovering from a hairline fracture in his right thumb. If Gabbert can’t start, the Jaguars will go with backup Chad Henne. The Jaguars will be without starting tight end Marcedes Lewis, who injured his left calf in warm-ups before the team’s second preseason game, Aug. 17.
Raiders hurting on line
The season hasn’t even begun yet for the Raiders and they’re already scrambling to field a healthy pair of offensive tackles. Khalif Barnes, the team’s starter on the right side for the past three years, has been moved to the left after injuries sidelined Jared Veldheer and Menelik Watson. Tony Pashos, who sat out all of 2012 following ankle surgery, will replace Barnes in the lineup Sunday in Indianapolis, less than a week after being cut by the Redskins . . .
Barkevious Mingo, the Browns’ speedy rookie linebacker, will not play in the season opener against Miami as he continues to recover from a bruised lung sustained in an exhibition game last month. On the other side, Dolphins third-string quarterback Pat Devlin (ankle) and rookie backup cornerbacks Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (groin) were ruled out . . . Defensive end Ziggy Ansah, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, practiced and is probable for the Lions’ game against the Vikings. Ansah, who has been recovering from a concussion, did not travel for Detroit’s preseason finale at Buffalo last week. Meanwhile, Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams was ruled out with a bone bruise and hyperextension in his knee . . . The Giants are going to make the Cowboys keep guessing about Jason Pierre-Paul’s playing status for Sunday night’s opener. The Giants listed the playing-making defensive end as questionable, saying they needed more time to decide whether his surgically repaired lower back would be sound enough for him to play.