ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Brandon McManus is back in his teammates’ good graces. Making field goals – and history – can do that.
A year after his sideline erupted in anger when he shanked a short field goal, McManus bailed out a throttled Broncos offense with four field goals in Denver’s 19-13 win over Baltimore in an opener dominated by the defenses.
McManus began his day with kicks of 57 and 56 yards, joining St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein as the only players in NFL history to hit two field goals of 56 yards or longer in the same game.
He added a 43-yarder into a hot, swirling wind in the second quarter and a chip shot that capped an 11-minute fourth-quarter drive.
“I think the biggest kick was the 33-yarder at the end just because it put us up six, and Baltimore was in the red zone at the end of the game and they would have tied it up,” McManus said. “So, that six-point differential was huge.”
The 33-yarder was the same distance he missed from last November, sending his teammates slamming their helmets to the ground on the sideline. McManus went from red-faced to pink-slipped within 24 hours.
He returned to the roster a week later as a kickoff specialist while Connor Barth handled field goals the rest of the season.
McManus began tinkering with his kicking mechanics to eliminate a jab-step and improve his accuracy to salvage his NFL career. That work paid off when he reclaimed the kicking job from Barth with a spectacular summer that included a 70-yard field goal in camp, but ended with an errant 55-yarder that prevented the Broncos from a perfect preseason.
Then, he went out Sunday and hit a no-doubter from 57 yards, a career long.
“That’s probably the toughest kick anyone has to ever start the season with,” McManus said.
With both teams scoring on interception returns and Justin Tucker kicking a pair of field goals for Baltimore, McManus proved the difference as the Broncos improved their record to 42-13-1 in home openers, best in the NFL.
“It’s awesome, I’m so proud of him,” coach Gary Kubiak said Monday. “He’s the one that stood up and won a job and did a great job for us in the preseason. And those kicks he made yesterday were tremendous. So, he’s off to a great start. It ought to be a great confidence builder for him.”
McManus doesn’t lack for pluck.
“I trust myself,” he said, “to make every kick.”
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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