Peyton Manning throws first two TDs with Broncos


Peyton Manning throws first two TDs with Broncos

From Comcast SportsNetDENVER (AP) -- That's the Peyton Manning the Denver Broncos and their fans have been waiting all summer to see. Magnificent. A machine. On the money. And no longer just a memory.Manning was close to perfect in his final regular-season tuneup Sunday, throwing his first two touchdown passes for the Denver Broncos in a 29-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.In less than a quarter of work, Manning completed 10 of 12 passes for 122 yards, including TD tosses of 10 and 5 yards to Eric Decker, and the only two misses were a dropped pass by Joel Dreessen and an errant throw to Brandon Stokley, who was held on the play but didn't draw the flag.After managing one TD to go with four turnovers in his first seven possessions this preseason, Manning drove the Broncos (1-2) to scores on all three of his series, then put on his visor with 46 seconds left in the first quarter after staking Denver to a 17-0 lead."I thought we did some good things today," Manning said. "We moved the ball pretty well and we got two touchdowns. It would have been nice to get three, had to settle to for a field goal. I thought the running game was good. Willis (McGahee) made some nice runs, had some nice holes by the offensive line, the receivers made some nice plays, as well."The Broncos finally showed more than just a glimpse of the offensive firepower they can have with the four-time MVP under center."I think it was nice just to start fast and finish off some drives and put some points on the board and play some good football," Stokley said. "I think that was more important than him throwing the first touchdown pass."The Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro32) mixed up their looks, throwing in some no-huddle with four-wide receiver sets, using fullback Chris Gronkowski at the point of attack and sending tailback Lance Ball out wide to run routes like a receiver."That's what this preseason is for. You want to win the game but you want to get a look at different players," Manning said. "No matter what grouping we were in we showed we could move the ball."Alex Smith threw a 49-yard TD pass and David Akers kicked five field goals for the Niners (2-1), who outscored the Broncos' backups 19-0 in the second half but lost wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to an ankle injury early in the second half.For the second straight week, the Broncos' backups were awful. They've now been outscored 40-0 after halftime in the last two games.Denver's first drive stalled when the replacement officials failed to whistle cornerback Carlos Rogers for a blatant hold on a third-down pass to Stokley, and the Broncos settled for Matt Prater's 53-yard field goal.Manning was money after that.He completed all six of his passes for 83 yards on a long drive that ended with his first touchdown throw in orange and blue, a 10-yard strike to Decker, who beat Rogers across the middle. The highlight of drive was a 38-yard pass to Ball, who beat linebacker Larry Grant.Ball, though, bruised his ribs on the play and didn't return. He said afterward he was fine.So was Manning, who was blasted by linebacker Parys Haralson in the chest right as he released his longest pass of the preseason. After Ball came down with it, Manning bounced right up, raced downfield, lined up in the no-huddle and hit running back Willis McGahee for 14 yards to the San Francisco 12.It was the second time Manning, who missed all of last season with a neck injury that required four operations, had been hit hard in the preseason, and both times shook off the cobwebs and responded with a big pass for the first down."The offense was excited to move the ball," Manning said. "We had some rhythm, we huddled today yet we still played at an up-tempo pace."Linebacker Wesley Woodyard recovered a fumbled snap for the Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro 32) at the San Francisco 24, and four plays later, Manning found Decker wide open by the back left pylon for his second touchdown and a 17-0 lead over the 49ers (No. 4).The Broncos' onside kick backfired when Matthew Willis touched the ball about a yard early, and Smith found tight end Vernon Davis all alone along the left sideline for a 49-yard score on the next snap."I was surprised," Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said of the Broncos' onside kick in the preseason. "But I'm glad they did it. It's good for us because you always have to be aware of it."Manning said he'd have gone out for another series had the Broncos recovered the onside kick. When they didn't, his day was done."I feel very comfortable where he is and rather than put him out there in harm's way, we took him out," Broncos coach John Fox said.Caleb Hanie, locked in a backup battle with rookie Brock Osweiler to serve as Manning's primary understudy, underthrew Decker and former Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox intercepted at midfield. That led to Akers' first field goal, from 33 yards out. Hanie bounced back to throw a 5-yard TD pass to Dreessen that made it 24-10 at halftime."I don't want to say it's just the preseason because this is a time to get better," Niners linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. "It's a time you can really showcase what your team is capable of doing. I don't know but it's been a scary start to this point."Smith finished 5 of 7 for 69 yards, and his pocket of protection was much better than it had been during the preseason."It was a little hard to get in a rhythm," Smith said, who was sacked just once. "I thought the young guys did a great job in the second half. We have some stuff to clean up obviously."San Francisco's ground game, which had gained an NFL-best 378 yards through the first two weeks of the preseason, was stymied by the Broncos. With LaMichael James (left ankle) and Brandon Jacobs (left knee) sitting this one out, the 49ers were held to 14 yards on nine first-half carries, including two runs for minus-4 yards by Frank Gore.That all changed after halftime as the Niners finished with 139 yards rushing. Anthony Dixon had a 26-yard TD run and Akers kicked field goals of 45, 21, 32 and 44 yards while the Broncos sputtered once again with Manning on the sideline.Notes: Manning's passer rating of 148.6 was nearly 100 points higher than what it was (48.8) in the first two preseason games. ... Broncos rookie RB Ronnie Hillman made his preseason debut after dealing with a pulled right hamstring and gained 29 yards on 10 carries. "I'll plan on playing better next week and playing a lot faster," Hillman said. ... X-rays were negative on Ginn's right ankle. ... Rookie CB Omar Bolden bruised his left knee.

Cubs' Epstein: 'History doesn't really weigh on this club'


Cubs' Epstein: 'History doesn't really weigh on this club'

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

Yes, you read that right.

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

The Curse of the Billy Goat is broken. 

The 71-year drought is over. 

The truly once-in-a-lifetime moment has finally come to Chicago.

Holy cow.

The Cubs punched their ticket to the promised land with a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Best Pitcher on the Planet in front of 42,386 fans in the most euphoric moment in Wrigley Field's history.

Theo Epstein's vision is one step closer to coming to fruition.

"History doesn't really weigh on this club," Epstein said before Saturday's Game 6. "Just trying to win tonight's game. 

"These guys - a lot of them are in their early 20s and they're not burdened by that stuff. The organization isn't. It's just about trying to win and keeping it simple."


Rewind: Sharks slow, sloppy and undisciplined in loss to Wings

Rewind: Sharks slow, sloppy and undisciplined in loss to Wings

DETROIT – The Sharks had just one scheduled practice on their 10-day road trip, set to take place on Friday in Detroit prior to the fifth and final game against the Red Wings. It was canceled, though, as the coaching staff opted for rest rather than work.

The result was a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings in which the Sharks were sloppy in their own zone, were smoked in the faceoff circle, surrendered a plethora of odd-man rushes, and took eight minor penalties. They just couldn’t keep pace with a Detroit team that was playing its second game in as many nights. 

San Jose looked like a club that has held just a single solitary practice since the season began on Oct. 12.

“Some breakdowns, guys not being above [the puck], some giveaways in our own end, we’re kind of leaving [the defensive zone] early,” Logan Couture said. “We just don’t seem like we’re dedicated to defense like we were at the end [of] last year.”

[KURZ: Instant Replay: Sharks blanked by Wings, end road trip with thud]

“It wasn’t very good tonight,” added Martin Jones, who lost his third in a row in goal. “Too many penalties, too many turnovers. Just wasn’t very good tonight.”

The start was actually a decent one, as the Sharks were attempting to put Thursday’s third period collapse in Pittsburgh behind them, but Detroit eventually took over. Gustav Nyquist broke the scoreless tie four minutes into the second period, and added to the Red Wings’ lead with a second marker about 11 minutes later.

On the first, Paul Martin was caught flat-footed in the offensive zone, leading to a two-on-one rush by Detroit. Nyquist abruptly stopped on the faceoff dot in front of Justin Braun, and rifled a shot though. On the second, Matt Nieto had control of the puck and was headed up the ice before he stumbled and turned it over to Ryan Sproul, who found Nyquist in the slot. 

A bad line change resulted in Andreas Athanasiou powering a slap shot to Jones’ far side six minutes into the third period, giving Detroit a commanding three-goal lead. 

“We were late everywhere tonight,” Pete DeBoer said. “When you’re a step behind a good team they expose you, and I think that was the story. We’ll have to go back and figure out why, and get our game back in a better place.”

“We played into their hands. They’re a transition team, a speed team, and if you’re going to play east-west and turn the puck over they’re going to make you pay for it. We talked about it, but we still fell into that trap. Obviously the penalties didn’t help, and we’re playing catch up all night.”

Among those penalties was a double minor to Joe Pavelski for spearing Steve Ott, just a few seconds after Athanasiou’s goal. The captain seemed agitated for much of the night.

Pavelski said he didn’t think he got a whole lot of Ott with his stick, but “it’s a play you don’t want to make.”

DeBoer didn’t take issue with the play which nullified what would have been a Sharks power play after a Drew Miller interference.

“Pav is a competitor. He was probably our best player tonight. He’s competing right until the final buzzer,” DeBoer said. “I don’t have a problem with that. It doesn’t bother me.”

The power play, though, is one area that the coach may need to focus on when the Sharks finally get a practice in on Monday at home. Despite being together for so many years, the top unit seems tentative with the puck and is misfiring on passes that are typically routine.

On one power play in the second period when the game was still scoreless, Pavelski was open in front of the net, but Patrick Marleau missed him on what would have been a tap-in goal. The Sharks finished 0-for-4 with a man advantage and have just one goal in a manned net this season during five-on-four play.

What has to change?

“Quite a few things,” Couture said. “We’re breaking in fine, [but] we’re too stationary, I think. I don’t know if we’re moving the puck well enough. Not attacking holes, not shooting the puck and getting it back.”

The Sharks will open up a three-game homestand on Tuesday with the Ducks. There is work to do before that.

“We’re 3-3. That’s the good news,” DeBoer said. “I think we’ve played some good hockey, but we have a lot of things we’ve got to clean up, too.”

Jones said: “Obviously it wasn’t the way we wanted to end the road trip. We’ll bounce back, and we’ve got a lot of games left.”