Peyton Manning was focused on one direction: the end zone. (Dustin Bradford / AP)

The lightning warning that delayed the start of the NFL season opener was a bit premature. The strong stuff didn’t come down until the second half.

That’s when Peyton Manning caught fire, throwing five of his seven touchdown passes in the Denver Broncos’ 49-27 annihilation of the Baltimore Ravens in Denver. Even by Manning’s standards, it was a ludicrously scorching performance.

Manning, 37, is the first quarterback — not Drew Brees, not Tom Brady, not Aaron Rodgers — since the AFL and NFL merged to throw for seven in one game. He’s one of only six to throw for seven TDs; the last was the Minnesota Vikings’ Joe Kapp, who accomplished the feat against the Baltimore Colts in 1969.

Joe Kapp? “Joe Kapp, great Canadian quarterback out of Cal,” Manning said in a Wikipedia moment afterward. “Kicked the crap out of a guy on YouTube a couple years ago.”

Remember when Manning’s arm strength was questioned after he missed the 2011 season because of neck surgery? Nah, nobody does, not when he’s on pace to pass for 112 TDs (and nearly 7,400 yards) this season. In fact, at this pace, he’d shatter it at around the halfway point of the season.

The performance, with two TD passes each going to Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas, was staggering on a surreal night. Neither aspect of the evening was lost on Manning.

Peyton Manning tied an NFL record with seven toughdown passes. (Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

“Usually the Super Bowl champion gets to play at home. The fact that they were here, we knew it was a unique game,” Manning told ESPN. “I think the lightning delay was just kind of fitting. It was just a strange set of circumstances. You had the other team’s quarterback’s picture on your stadium. It’s not a normal game. We said the team prayer, and put our hands in and broke it down ‘Broncos on three’ three different times. Never had that happen before. … That lightning delay, we kept thinking it was time to start and we kept going back to sit down. It took us a while to get started.”

And once they did…good Lord. The TD passes were easy, “too easy,” ESPN’s Tedy Bruschi noted. But that’s everyone else’s problem, not the Broncos’.

“Who’s afraid now of that big, bad banner of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco that adorned Sports Authority Field at Mile High?,” the Denver Post’s Mike Kiszla crowed. “Just wondering: Do you think Elvis Dumervil wishes he had stayed with the Broncos?  No need to answer right away, Doom. Send us a fax when you get a chance.”

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