Peyton Manning’s first appearance with the Denver Broncos was brief and a bit uneven.
Manning got intercepted near the goal line on the game’s opening possession and watched from the sideline the rest of the way as Denver beat the Chicago Bears, 31-3, in an exhibition opener on Thursday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
All eyes were on Manning, and the results were mixed for the four-time MVP. Considering he missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his neck that weakened his throwing arm and led to his tearful farewell from the Indianapolis Colts, it was hardly a surprise.
Manning is trying to show he still has something left, and all things considered, Broncos coach John Fox was impressed.
“He was remarkable,” Fox said. “He came back, he’s worked very hard. He hasn’t played football in (almost) two years. I thought it was a good first drive in these conditions — it was sloppy. It was sloppy by the receivers as far as the conditions, but I thought it was a very good first outing.”
On a cool and rainy night, Manning completed 4-of-7 passes for 44 yards. He didn’t have to contend with the Bears’ biggest defensive stars, defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Brian Urlacher, neither of whom played.
Manning had all the time he needed to throw, so it remains to be seen how he’ll handle a big hit. But even with little pressure, he still was a bit off target.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, his pass was broken up by Chicago’s Lance Briggs, and his second was nearly picked off, too. The Bears’ Geno Hayes tipped the ball near midfield, but Denver’s Jacob Tamme hauled it in for a 12-yard gain to the Chicago 39.
After a short run by Willis McGahee, Manning found Eric Decker for 10 yards. A 19-yarder to Decker a few plays later put the ball on the 14, and the Broncos seemed poised to score.
Instead, on third down at the 12, Manning got picked off when Denver’s Brandon Stokley deflected a pass and Major Wright dived for the interception at the 2.
That was it for Manning, who was replaced by Caleb Hanie on the Broncos’ next possession.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler did not play, one day after his fiancée gave birth to a boy.
CHARGERS’ MATHEWS BREAKS COLLARBONE
San Diego Chargers starting running back Ryan Mathews is expected to miss at least a month after breaking his collarbone in a 21-13 exhibition victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Mathews was injured on his first carry and did not return to the game. He is expected to have surgery this morning, and coach Norv Turner said he’ll be out four to six weeks.
Mathews ran for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns last season. He added 50 catches for 455 yards.
Also during Thursday’s game at San Diego, Shannon Eastin became the first woman to officiate an NFL game.She served as the line judge for the seven-man crew of replacement officials.
Wearing No. 27 on the back of her official’s uniform, Eastin was dwarfed by the players as she lined up in front of San Diego’s sideline, and she had a camera following nearly every move before the game.
The 42-year-old from Tempe, Ariz., seemed at ease in the spotlight, though, and had at least two players shake her hand right before the opening kickoff.
Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garon on his third and final series in a 7-6 exhibition victory over the Bills. … Tom Brady lost a fumble on the first of his two scoreless series, but his Patriots beat the Saints, 7-6. … Alex Henery kicked a 51-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a 24-23 win over the Steelers. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick escaped injury after banging his left thumb on center Jason Kelce’s helmet. … Ravens backup quarterback Curtis Painter threw three second-half touchdown passes in a 31-17 win over the Falcons. … Trent Richardson won’t play today, but the Browns hope the heralded rookie will be able to rebound from left knee surgery in time for the regular-season opener. Richardson, the quick and powerful running back drafted No. 3 overall, underwent what the Browns termed “routine arthroscopic” surgery by Dr. James Andrews on Thursday in Pensacola, Fla. … Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason is not expected to play in Saturday’s exhibition game against the Texans after injuring his left hamstring. … Kenny Britt will not face an additional fine from the Titans for complaining about a previous fine through social media.