Peyton Manning's first appearance with the Denver Broncos was brief and a bit uneven.
Manning got intercepted near the goal line on the game's opening possession and watched from the sideline the rest of the way as Denver beat the Chicago Bears 31-3 in the preseason opener on Thursday night.
All eyes were on Manning and the results were mixed for the four-time MVP. Considering he missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his neck that weakened his throwing arm and led to his tearful farewell from the Indianapolis Colts, it was hardly a surprise.
Manning is trying to show he still has something left with Denver (No. 10 in the AP Pro32), and all things considered, coach John Fox was impressed.
"He was remarkable," Fox said. "He came back, he's worked very hard. He hasn't played football in (almost) two years. I thought it was a good first drive in these conditions — it was sloppy. It was sloppy by the receivers as far as the conditions, but I thought it was a very good first outing."
On a cool and rainy night, Manning completed 4 of 7 passes for 44 yards, but didn't have to contend with Julius Peppers or Brian Urlacher. He had all the time he needed, too, so it remains to be seen how he'll handle a big hit.
But even with little pressure, he still was a bit off target against Chicago (No. 11 tie).
On the game's first play from scrimmage, his pass was broken up by Chicago's Lance Briggs, and his second was nearly picked off, too. The Bears' Geno Hayes tipped the ball near midfield, but Jacob Tamme hauled it in for a 12-yard gain to the Chicago 39.
After a short run by Willis McGahee, Manning found Eric Decker on the left for 10 yards. A 19-yarder to Decker a few plays later put the ball on the 14, and the Broncos looked like they were poised to score.
Instead, on third down at the 12, Manning got picked off when Denver's Brandon Stokley deflected a pass and Major Wright dived for the interception at the 2. Wright then left the game with a hamstring injury.
Manning was finished for the night, too, and that brought the biggest story to a close.
Another big angle never materialized. That was the Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall reunion.
They put up big numbers in Denver and they're back together after the Bears (No. 11 tie) acquired Marshall from Miami. That blockbuster trade gave Cutler the go-to target he's lacked since he arrived from the Broncos and sent expectations soaring in Chicago after a disappointing 8-8 finish. But instead of a first look, fans got a rain check.
Cutler warmed up but sat out, one day after his fiancee Kristin Cavallari gave birth to a boy named Camden Jack. Running back Matt Forte and Peppers were also in uniform but did not play. Urlacher, meanwhile, wasn't expected to play after missing time in six practices because of his injured left knee and for personal reasons, and was not on the sideline.
With their star quarterback and running back watching, the Bears managed just 41 yards in the first half and trailed 10-0 at the break.
Marshall caught just one pass for 4 yards. Jason Campbell completed 4 of 5 for 13 yards before Josh McCown relieved him, and Michael Bush carried three times for 2 yards in his first appearance as a Bear. He also lost a fumble in the first quarter that led to a field goal for Denver.
Caleb Hanie then came in for Manning and was immediately booed by Chicago fans for failing last year after Cutler suffered a season-ending thumb injury. Besides the field goal, he led the Broncos on a 57-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter and wound up going 7 for 14 for 79 yards.
Griffin III unveiled in Buffalo
The only thing missing from Robert Griffin III's NFL preseason debut was the Washington Redskins rookie quarterback showing off his ability to run the ball on Thursday night.
Give it time, Griffin said. He wouldn't mind saving something for the regular season.
"I don't mind that," he said. "I didn't get touched today. That was a great feeling."
Though he didn't get a chance to run the ball, Griffin did show off his arm in producing the lone touchdown drive for the Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32) in a 7-6 win over the Buffalo Bills (No. 19).
After a muffed handoff and no first downs in his first two series, RG3 found his rhythm by completing his final three passes for 58 yards, capped by a 20-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon.
Garcon celebrated by doing a front-first somersault in the end zone. And he was quickly joined by Griffin, who raced over to congratulate him with a leap in the air. With 5:54 left in the first quarter, it was the go-ahead score after the Redskins fell behind 3-0.
It was an eventful cameo for the Heisman Trophy winner, who was drafted with the No. 2 pick out of Baylor. Griffin finished going 4 of 6 for 70 yards and a lost fumble.
"It was fun to get out there and run around, suit up in the Redskins gear for the first time officially," Griffin said. "It's something I don't want to forget."
Coach Mike Shanahan was pleased with what Griffin managed to accomplish in just 14 plays.
"He did everything you asked him to do," Shanahan said. "He stepped up. Made some plays, some excellent throws. He was very calm cool collected. Excellent for his first game."
Defensive end Mario Williams made a debut of his own for the Bills in his first game since signing a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency in March. Williams, the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, and the Bills' new-look defensive front was solid in limiting the Redskins to 11 yards and no first downs in the first two series.
The real trouble for Buffalo came on offence, which was sloppy and lacked finish.
Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick went 6 for 14 for 61 yards, and squandered a scoring opportunity when the Bills got the ball at the Redskins 21 following Griffin's fumble. The Bills were undone by a false start penalty, and then an illegal formation that negated what would've been a 20-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson.
Buffalo instead settled for Rian Lindell hitting a 43-yard field goal.
"There was more bad than good tonight," Fitzpatrick said. "I thought it was really poor, but luckily it's the preseason."
Discipline was an issue. The Bills were penalized 14 times for 134 yards.
"It looked ugly. It felt ugly. And it was ugly," coach Chan Gailey said. "It was a great lesson in our lack of discipline at this point."
Lindell also hit a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. But he also pushed a 22-yard attempt wide left to end a series in which backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen couldn't produce a touchdown despite six chances from inside the Redskins' 10.
Griffin's only real miscue was the fumble, which was credited to him because he was the last player to have possession. Replays, however, showed running back Evan Royster was also to blame because he never closed his hands on the ball.
Though the play had been whistled dead when Buffalo's George Wilson recovered the ball, Griffin still chased down Wilson and punched the ball out of his hands as the safety ran toward the end zone.
Shanahan was impressed.
"If I've got a quarterback running the other way when there's a fumble and a guy right there, then I've got the wrong quarterback," Shanahan said.
The touchdown came after Griffin completed 20- and 18-yard passes to Garcon. Coming out of a time out, Griffin then smartly hit Garcon on a screen pass.
The game was otherwise dull and sloppy. And the replacement officials struggled.
They were booed late in the first quarter after muffing a call on a touchback. Bills punter Brian Moorman hit a 49-yard punt, which Buffalo's Ruvell Martin downed at the Redskins 4. Back judge Craig Burd, however, ruled it a touchback.
Gailey challenged the play, which was reversed shortly after referee David Scott reviewed it.