Even Peyton Manning realizes he’s ready for the regular season. Or at least darn close.
Manning threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Julius Thomas and dominated in his two series, leading the Denver Broncos past the San Francisco 49ers 34-0 on Sunday to spoil the NFL debut at sparkling $1.2 billion Levi’s Stadium.
“It’s been a good start. That’s all it is, though,” Manning said. “We’ve still got some things we have to improve on.”
The 38-year-old Manning, beginning his 17th season after throwing for an NFL-record 55 touchdowns last year, completed 12 of 14 passes for 102 yards and a 120.8 rating. He was 8 for 8 on Denver’s second drive, then backup Brock Osweiler took over and threw for a score and led another touchdown drive in a preseason matchup of the past two Super Bowl losers.
Colin Kaepernick went 5 for 9 for 39 yards in his two series before a sellout crowd at the team’s flashy new digs in Santa Clara, California.
Demaryius Thomas had three catches on Denver’s opening drive, including a 20-yard gain.
“Coming off last year, losing the Super Bowl like we did, coming into OTAs I think everybody had a different mindset,” Demaryius Thomas said.
C.J. Anderson ran for a 1-yard TD, while Matt Prater kicked a 26-yard field goal and Mitch Ewald added a late 22-yarder. San Francisco’s typically spot-on Phil Dawson sailed two long kicks wide right.
Denver did it on defense, too, getting two interceptions and a fumble recovery and a goal-line stand to end the game. The Broncos recovered another fumble on special teams.
“It was a great moment for our defense,” defensive lineman Marvin Austin said. “It’s real hard to put up a goose egg in a preseason game.”
As San Francisco struggled in all phases, tens of thousands of fans made their way out midway through the third quarter – certainly helping to alleviate traffic concerns. The 49ers ended a four-decade run at Candlestick Park last season.
Panthers 28, Chiefs 16
Cam Newton made a successful return following ankle surgery, Jonathan Stewart ran for two touchdowns and the Carolina Panthers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 28-16 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Newton completed 4 of 9 passes for 65 yards and led a pair of touchdown drives in the preseason game before exiting late in the second quarter with Carolina up 14-6.
Stewart ran for 26 yards on four carries and made a strong case to be the Panthers’ goal-line back – if not their primary ballcarrier – with scoring runs of 3 and 2 yards.
Alex Smith was 14 of 22 for 127 yards for Kansas City. Rookie Aaron Murray’s first NFL pass resulted in a 43-yard touchdown strike, but he also had an interception.
Around the league
Saints quarterback Drew Brees fully participated in practice for the first time since straining his left oblique muscle two weeks ago. He plans to play Saturday against the Colts… Falcons left tackle Sam Baker was ruled out for the year after injuring his right knee in Saturday’s loss to Houston.