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CHICAGO – Peyton Manning's return to the NFL ended with an interception on a pass intended for Brandon Stokley. What year is it again?
Manning played one series for the Denver Broncos in their preseason debut against the Chicago Bears on Thursday at Soldier Field. He completed 4-of-7 passes for 44 yards, but his last pass to former Indianapolis Colts teammate Stokley, from the Bears' 12-yard line, was deflected and intercepted by the Bears' Major Wright.
How did Manning look? Still strange wearing a Broncos uniform.
Otherwise, he looked about like he always looked during 13 years playing for the Colts before missing last season due to neck surgeries.
He wasn't yet his old spectacular self, but it's been a year and half since he played. He was solid, and that's Step One.
He was cool and confident, and protected by his offensive line in much the manner the Colts did over the years. It's clear the Broncos built this team to protect. The Bears didn't have that same pass-rush drive without Brian Urlacher on the field, either.
Whatever the case, Manning had time and he took advantage of it. His first play, from the shotgun formation, was an over-the-middle pass intended for former Colts tight end Jacob Tamme. The Bears' Lance Briggs got a hand on it, incomplete. Manning's second pass, also to Tamme, was tipped by Geno Hayes, but ended up dropping into Tamme's hands.
Manning also hit wide receiver Eric Decker for two completions (the longest for 19 yards) and running back Lance Ball on a swing pass. A completion to Demaryius Thomas was called back for holding. His picked off pass, thrown a little behind Stokley, was tipped by D.J. Moore and Wright dived for the interception.
While the Broncos forced a turnover to set up the offense for a score on their second series, Manning did not return to the field.
Manning, who had not played in an NFL game since the Colts lost to the Jets in the playoffs after the 2010 season, came out before the game and went through his usual warm-up routine, throwing short-range passes, progressing to longer ones. It was a standard warm-up session, nothing significant, except that the greatest player in Indianapolis Colts' history was back with a different team.
Due to the rainy weather, which included a short lightning delay before kickoff, Manning didn't get out early in t-shirt and shorts to throw, as he often did with the Colts.
His full pregame preparation will have to wait for next time.
Judging by one series, and that's a small sample to be sure, Manning is off and throwing well in the most anticipated comeback in NFL history.