There was no mystery to Peyton Manning's game plan: score and then score some more.
Manning pulled it off to a "T." He tied the NFL record with seven touchdown passes, including three in the third quarter to break open a tight game, and the Denver Broncos pulled away to beat the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens 49-27 Thursday night in the NFL's season-opening showcase.
"You never know what's going to happen in a game," Manning said. "I felt like we had to keep scoring."
And score they did.
Third-year tight end Julius Thomas, shaking off an arrest last week for missing a court hearing on a traffic citation, and free agent addition Wes Welker, atoning for a muffed punt, each caught two of Manning's scoring passes to help ease some of the sting from the Broncos' double-overtime playoff loss to the Ravens in January.
Demaryius Thomas also had two touchdown catches, including the longest of the night, 78 yards.
"Last year was last year," Manning said. "It's a new year for us. It's a good start to a new season. Depending on how the season goes, you can usually expect to see Baltimore again."
Demaryius Thomas finished with five receptions for 161 yards, while Julius Thomas had five catches for 110 yards. Welker's game-high nine catches accounted for 67 yards.
Manning, a four-time MVP who is starting his second season with Denver after playing the bulk of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, completed 27 of 42 passes for 462 yards.
His previous high was six touchdown passes in a game, which he accomplished twice, most recently against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 25, 2004.
"He's phenomenal," Julius Thomas said of Manning, 37. "To continue to come out every year and put that kind of performance on for us, it's amazing."
Joe Flacco, whose brilliant play keyed the Ravens' championship run last season and won him a lucrative new contract, completed 34 of 62 passes for 362 yards. However, he faced withering defensive pressure after the Broncos gained a commanding lead with a 21-point third quarter.
"It was just one of those nights," Flacco said. "It was a pretty good game for a while, and it got away from us. We've all been through it before. When you play in the NFL for a while, you're going to be through these types of games."
Flacco was intercepted twice, though he was spared from having the second returned for a touchdown when Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan, celebrating prematurely, simply let the ball drop a yard before he reached the goal line. The ball rolled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback, returning possession to the Ravens at the 20.
"It was a young mistake," said Trevathan, a second-year player who caught grief from teammates and a heated sideline lecture from defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "It was kind of selfish. I'm going to take full responsibility. I'm going to grow from it."
The Ravens lost key elements of their offense when wide receiver Jacoby Jones and right tackle Michael Oher both left the game in the second quarter because of injury. Oher went out with an ankle sprain, and Jones suffered a knee sprain when rookie Brynden Trawick collided with his teammate as Jones prepared to field a punt.
"Obviously, it's a tough loss," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Hats off to the Broncos. They played extremely well. Especially in the third quarter, they executed extremely well."
Denver was without pass-rushing star Von Miller, who began serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
Baltimore led 17-14 at halftime. The Broncos took their first lead when Manning capped the opening drive of the third quarter with a 28-yard scoring pass to Andre Caldwell.
In quick succession, the Broncos' David Bruton blocked Sam Koch's punt, leading two plays later to Manning's 5-yard TD pass to Welker. After Denver's defense forced another punt, Manning drove the Broncos to another score, finishing with a 2-yard TD pass to Welker. Suddenly, Denver was up 35-17.
Manning's sixth touchdown pass was a 26-yarder to Demaryius Thomas with 13:19 left to play.
After the Trevathan blunder, Flacco drove the Ravens to a touchdown, finishing with a 13-yard scoring pass to Marlon Brown. Baltimore added a field goal to pull within 42-27, but there was no keeping up with Manning.
Manning punctuated his performance with the 78-yarder to Demaryius Thomas late in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens were on top at the break thanks to Justin Tucker's tiebreaking, 25-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the second quarter. Baltimore failed to convert a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line into a touchdown.
Cornerback Kayvon Webster tipped away a first-down pass intended for Brandon Stokley, a second-down run went nowhere, and Ravens tight end Dallas Clark dropped a third-down pass with a clear path to the end zone.