Video: Peyton Manning's seven touchdowns make up for a multitude of dumb-ass sins

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The hype surrounding the game was undeniably irritating at times, and that certainly carried over to the NBC broadcast itself, which introduced itself via enormous banners that covered thousands of fans like flattened-out tents, fireworks displays, a special appearance by Ryan Seacrest (!), and the ham-handed use of Europe's corporate-metal schlock-classic "Final Countdown," echoed by more than two-dozen NFL greats -- the last of whom was, of course, recently retired Raven Ray Lewis.

Apparently, though, a higher power was no more amused by the Lewis cameo than by all those Joe Flacco banners around town, and on Mile High Stadium itself. Seconds after Lewis's face appeared on the Mile High Jumbotron, a lightning storm in the vicinity delayed the start of the contest for more than half an hour, throwing a major crimp into the network's carefully structured program.

This was pretty much the only electricity in evidence for much of the first quarter, at least from a Denver perspective. Early on, the Broncos offense moved in fits and starts -- something that seldom results in points. Worse, the Ravens, after some early struggles, began clicking, putting the first points on the board via a Flacco-to-Vonta Leach TD.

But the Ravens machine began to sputter after receiver Jacoby Jones was plowed under by his own teammate while trying to collect a second-quarter punt, and The Blindside centerpiece Michael Oher got pretty much the same treatment while watching Ray Rice run for Baltimore's second score.

After that, the Ravens looked undermanned, confused and exhausted -- ripe for the picking, as it were. But the Broncos took their sweet time taking advantage. The Rice score wouldn't have happened if new acquisition Wes Welker hadn't muffed a punt -- an ironic gaffe, since he'd been put into the game to prevent main returner Trindon Holliday from doing the very same thing. And then, on a key third down early in the third quarter, with the Broncos trailing 17-14, Welker couldn't handle a Manning low-ball. Granted, he brought it in, but with a little help from the turf.

Continue for more about the Broncos victory, including more photos and a video.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts