The Broncos were able to strike first in the two team’s first matchup since 2008. QB Peyton Manning orchestrated an 11-play, 98 yard drive after being pinned down deep in Broncos’ territory by WR Courtney Roby following a 52-yard punt by P Thomas Morstead. Denver capped off the drive with a one-yard rush by RB Willis McGahee and K Matt Prater made the extra point to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.
The Broncos advanced into New Orleans territory again later in the first quarter but turned the ball over to New Orleans. McGahee rushed to the left side on third down and was stopped by rookie DT Akiem Hicks who forced a fumble that was recovered by LB Curtis Lofton at the New Orleans 45-yard line.
Brees completed three straight passes including a 16-yard strike to WR Marques Colston and a seven-yard completion to WR Lance Moore to move the ball down the field. Then, to start the second period, Brees found RB Darren Sproles on a completion and Sproles took the ball 29 yards for a New Orleans score. K Garrett Hartley made the extra point to tie the game, 7-7.
Later in the second quarter, the Saints lined up to try to move the chains on fourth-and-two from near midfield. Brees’ pass was intercepted by LB Wesley Woodyard and returned to the Denver 44-yard line.
Following the interception, Manning connected on a 34-yard strike to WR Demaryius Thomas before hitting WR Eric Decker with a 13-yard touchdown pass. With the extra point, Denver took a 14-7 lead with 6:43 remaining in the first half.
The Broncos were able to put together another long drive before the end of the first half. Manning completed passes of 19 and 23 yards to move the ball down the field before the two-minute warning. The Saints defense held on and forced a Broncos field goal attempt. Prater made the 33-yard field goal to give the Broncos a 17-7 halftime lead.
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