‘Sunday Night Football’ Has Highest-Rated Episode Ever

Peyton Manning leads Broncos, NBC to victory

Sunday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos was the highest-rated episode of "Sunday Night Football" ever on NBC and tied the 2010 "NFL Kickoff" opener on a Thursday for the highest-rated regular season game ever to air on the network, NBC said.

Getty ImagesThe matchup on "Sunday Night Football" — which ousted "American Idol" last season as television's highest-rated show — scored a 16.5 national rating and a total audience of 27.6 million, making it NBC's second-most-watched regular-season primetime game. (Viewership was less than one percent below the most-watched NFL regular-season primetime game ever on NBC. The Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game last year that determined the NFC East title had 27.62 million total viewers.)

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Sunday's game scored an 11 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic, the highest demo rating for any regular-season primetime NFL game ever on NBC. It was also the best rating in the demo for an NFL regular-season primetime game on any network since a Broncos-San Francisco 49ers game on Dec. 15, 1997 scored an 11.6 rating for ABC.

In Sunday's game, Peyton Manning (pictured) led the Broncos to a 31-19 win in his first appearance as the team's quarterback.

The Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints "NFL Kickoff" game on Sept. 9, 2010 also scored a 16.5 rating.