(AP) – “They’re all going to be like this,” former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning exclaimed after the thrilling climax to the NFL’s wildest of opening weekends.
“Yeah,” replied baby brother Eli, “this was fun, bro.”
And not just for America’s first family of football, but for fans across the country who were thoroughly entertained by the Manning brothers in their “Monday Night Football” debut broadcast on ESPN2 and streamed on ESPN+.
They not only gave audiences a Master’s course in both offense and defense straight from the masterminds of professional football, but the Brothers Manning also provided riveting running commentary and plenty of their patented dry humor throughout the rip-roaring Week 1 finale.
— Arnie Stapleton (@arniestapleton) September 14, 2021
The rave reviews for the former NFL QBs came in long before the Raiders overcame a premature bench-clearing celebration and a series of blunders to stagger away 33-27 winners in overtime against the Ravens.
“It doesn’t seem very smart of ESPN to put Peyton and Eli on ESPN2,” tweeted Ben McKee, who covers Peyton’s alma mater, the University of Tennessee. “Not because it’s not a great idea, but because surely nobody is watching the main broadcast.
“This is amazing television.”
They couldn’t have asked for a better game to make their dandy debut.
The Raiders trailed 14-0 early on — the Ravens had won 98 consecutive games when leading by that much — and Las Vegas scored 17 points in the final nine minutes of regulation, including a field goal after getting the ball with no timeouts and 37 seconds remaining.
The Raiders nearly let the win slip from their grasp, however. After what they thought was a game-winning touchdown was overruled on replay, they got the ball just shy of the end zone but couldn’t punch it in.
First 30 mins to hour of the Manning broadcast they were too intent on making things happen. Last hour or so they're actually letting it breathe. Has a ton of potential.
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 14, 2021
The Mannings and their special guest Russell Wilson were incredulous at Derek Carr’s inexcusable hard count from inside the 1-yard line that fooled his rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood and pushed them back 5 yards.
Just when the crowd had accepted that the Raiders would have to kick a field goal and give the ball back to the Ravens, Carr’s pass sailed through Willie Snead IV’s fingertips, ricocheted off safety Deshon Elliot’s helmet and settled into the arms of Ravens cornerback Anthony Averett in the end zone.
Then, Lamar Jackson fumbled at his own 27 — Peyton lauded Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s call that confused Baltimore’s offense on the play — and the Raiders had a golden opportunity to atone for all their mistakes.
After one offensive play, Jon Gruden decided to go for the field goal then and there. But his kicking team wasn’t ready to run onto the field and they had to take a 5-yard delay of game penalty.
Gruden trotted his offense back onto the field and Zay Jones got free to easily haul in Carr’s 31-yard game-winner 6:22 into the extra period.
Just as entertaining was the running commentary from the Mannings.
Peyton, who never liked to hear a peep from the home crowd when his team had the ball, took Raiders fans to task several times for making too much noise when Carr was barking out play calls.
“Drink your beer, quiet down. Let Carr play quarterback,” he admonished the crowd at Allegiant Stadium.
Another time, Peyton, in his armchair, waived his arms as if to quiet the crowd himself.
The Manning brothers provided some AMAZING commentary on MNF all game long! 🍿
— ESPN (@espn) September 14, 2021
Archie’s boys also brought some brotherly jabs, like when Peyton was in the middle of demonstrating a point he wanted to make and finally just wrestled off the Ravens helmet he’d put on.
“This helmet doesn’t fit,” said an exasperated Peyton.
“That’s shocking that a helmet doesn’t fit you,” Eli retorted.
“They didn’t have a XXL helmet for that forehead?”
Next week they’ll chime in on the Lions-Packers broadcast.
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