Manning had shown throughout training camp that his arm strength was back along with his accuracy. The only question left was whether he could take a hard hit after undergoing neck fusion surgery last September.
The answer came with 1:25 left in the first half when Irvin beat right tackle Orlando Franklin and had a clean shot at the quarterback.
"I came into the game trying to be the first one to get a shot on him since he's been back and I guess I succeeded," Irvin said. "He's a great quarterback, got the ball out quick and it's hard to get to him. I just put on a good move and just so happened to get through."
Welcome back to the NFL, Peyton.
"He didn't say anything. He moaned a little bit, though," Irvin said. "So I guess he really felt it. It was a good hit, good play and now it's time to move on."
Manning's sentiments, too, after his first hit in 19 months.
"I never heard a crowd cheer for an incompletion before," Manning said. "I think the next pass was to Stokley, right? That's what I told you I was going to do."
Indeed, Manning had been saying for weeks that he only hoped that first big hit happened on first or second down so he could bounce back up and complete a long pass.
He couldn't decide what was better, getting that initial big blast out of the way or putting a halt to all the questions about whether he could still take a hit.
"Both of them are just fine with me," Manning said.
As the ball sailed out of bounds, Manning popped right back up and the crowd went wild.
"We weren't worried about it. I think everybody else was," Stokley said. "Now, we don't have to hear about that anymore."
Instead, they can concentrate on all the mistakes they've been making with Manning under center.
Manning played the first half and gave the Broncos (1-1) a 10-9 lead despite three turnovers, including an interception in the red zone for the second straight week, and another at midfield on a bad overthrow.
He looked great on a 2-minute drive, but that stalled when tight end Jacob Tamme, his old pal from Indianapolis, dropped a wide-open touchdown pass 6 seconds before halftime following a drop by Eric Decker and a 15-yard penalty on center J.D. Walton.
"Well, we moved the ball well," Stokley said. "We had a good 2-minute drive going, and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot with the 15-yard penalty. So, we did some good things and then we did some bad things, so you've just got to be glad it's preseason and not the regular season."