By Rich Kurtzman
The Denver Broncos seem like a team destined for greatness. In fact, they’re already experiencing what it means to be an elite team, as one of six NFL squads to remain unbeaten.
Denver leads the league in points scored with 127, for an awe-inspiring average of 42.3 points per game. The NFL team with the second-best offense? The Green Bay Packers, who are yet to hit triple digits with 96.
(** UPDATE after Sunday’s win over the Eagles: Only the 1966 Dallas Cowboys, with 183 points, scored more than the Broncos’ 179 in their first four games. FULL STORY)
Why is the Broncos’ offense the best in the NFL? Simply, because Peyton Manning is orchestrating it all.
Manning, the “Maestro of Offense,” continues to prove he’s the best quarterback in the league. He gets to the line, dissects the defense and then – with some hand-waving instruction – audibles to a new play that will work best for his offense on that particular play.
Through three games, Manning has passed for 12 total touchdowns, a new NFL record, and has thrown zero interceptions to go along with all the scores.
(** UPDATE after Sunday’s win: Manning’s 16 TD passes are the most in the first month of a season.)
In fact, he’s playing so well, the veteran quarterback was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week Tuesday for the second time in only three weeks this season. It’s the 25th time in his career, which is yet another record for Manning.
While it’s early, the Broncos have risen to the top of the league, and even with most of the season’s slate still awaiting, all of Manning’s production is on pace to set many NFL records.
If he continues to pass for four touchdowns per game, that factors out to 64 total touchdowns – Tom Brady’s 50 is currently the most. At this point, Manning has 1,143 yards, which extrapolates to 6,096 at the end of 16 games – Drew Brees leads with 5,476. He’s also on pace for 475 completions, with a 73.0 completion percentage and a passer rating of 134.7 – each would be a new NFL record.
Can he stay on this phenomenal pace? It seems unlikely, but with much margin for error, Manning could still end this regular season with the best quarterbacking play anyone’s ever witnessed.
All of that would be wonderful, especially if it leads to wins for the Broncos.
But, as everyone knows after watching last season, regular season wins don’t mean much more than playoff positioning, the season begins anew after that. Denver was dominant, winners of 11 straight contests last year to finish with an AFC-best 13-3 record. But, after the earned bye week, the Broncos lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs; they were one-and-done.
Manning’s playoff record is only 9-11 currently, and he has to be at his best in the playoffs for this season to truly be a success.
For now, let’s all just sit back and enjoy one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play at the top of his game.
Quotes After Sunday’s Win
The following quotations from Peyton Manning after Sunday’s win are provided courtesy of DenverBroncos.com:
On how he stays grounded after a 4-0 start and a great offensive performance each other
“Well, it’s really not hard with our schedule. We have a tough road game next week – another unfamiliar opponent. When you play these NFC teams, especially with new defensive coordinators, they are tough to prepare for because you prepare for the short amount of film that is available and you have to be prepared for a lot of unexpected looks. It’s really not hard – every week you have to prepare hard and grind to get ready for the next opponent.”
On WR Trindon Holliday’s return TD hurting offense’s momentum
“Well, I think it did have a little bit of an effect on us. We probably had our worst series, had a three-and-out, after that series. It’s something we have to be prepared to work on. They had some long drives – our defense did a good job holding them to field goals and of course Holliday’s return was great, but it does keep us off the field and for whatever reason we weren’t as sharp on that series after that lull when we needed to be”
On what they can improve on
“Well, like I said, the film – there’s always things you can improve on. There are things we’re doing well that we need to continue to do. I thought once again, the second half we made good adjustments. Coaches tightened up some things and our execution the second half was good. We were disappointed that last drive of the first half not getting points. We were in field goal- or even touchdown-range and to have no points there was disappointing. But our second half execution was good once again.”
On breaking the NFL record with his 16 touchdown passes in four games
“The recaps don’t mean a whole lot. It was a good win because it was this game and we’ll learn from it and we have a tough test next week playing a team – like I said – that we’re unfamiliar with that is a good football team that is tough to play at home. I think we’ll enjoy this win and we’ll learn from it, but you have to move on to the next week pretty quickly.”
On if he may have one or two more offensive weapons than he did in Indianapolis
“I can’t make a comparison really. Guys are doing a good job in the passing game. The protection has been solid – one sack today that was borderline almost a coverage-sack. Guys are doing a good job. We’re playing fast, we’re getting a lot of plays in, very few third downs today, which means we’re doing a good job on first and second down. Receivers are doing a good job with the ball after the catch, getting first downs, getting touchdowns. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
On having three-consecutive 80-yard drives without a third down
“That’s good execution on first and second down. We didn’t have penalties, we didn’t have mistakes that were putting us in first-and-long, second-and-longs, third-and-longs. We had some of those in the first half. You don’t have to be in third down if you are doing your job on first and second down. Certainly that can put a lot of pressure on a defense – keep them from being able to to their third-down package and substitute. That was good today.”
On why the screens are working so well
“It’s hard to say. Probably caught them in the right defensive look and good job with the guys blocking downfield.”
On surpassing Milton Plum’s touchdown record
“Well [Executive Director of Media Relations] Patrick [Smyth] gave me a little bio. I did know he played for the [Cleveland] Browns. He gave me his college – Penn State. I’m throwing 16 out as a number – is that right? OK. My brother Cooper and I used to play a lot of trivia when we used to take road trips with my dad, so Cooper would be proud that I knew Milt Plum.”
On if WR Wes Welker is even better than he thought he was when the Broncos signed him
“Well, he’s extremely difficult to cover. I think [Offensive Coordinator] Adam [Gase] is doing a great job using him in different ways. We get the screens to him, we’ve got the quick stuff to him. We put him in the backfield today – that was something we haven’t shown before. It’s a credit to him that he has that type of versatility. You can do different things with him. He does a good job getting north as well, and getting that ball in his hands and going upfield.”
On what went through his head in the fourth quarter when he wasn’t playing
“Well, obviously I’m still staying into the game. You still learn in those situations. I’m happy that [QB] Brock [Osweiler] got to get in there and get some playing time. He made some plays. So, you’re still tuned into the situation. We talk about finishing and playing 60-minute games. You never know when that situation in the fourth quarter is going to be critical, so it’s still something to learn from.”
On throwing to WR Eric Decker after Decker missed a target early in the game
“It was just an inch long on the overthrow and it was a really good route and one you’d like to have back and put a little more air in it. It wasn’t a credit of whether I would go back to him because I was the one that missed the throw. So, Eric – it’s a credit to him that he is good on all those intermediate routes, but he can get down the field. We hit that post-route later on the same defender and a deep throw. It’s a credit to Eric. He can stretch the field vertically.”
On if there was a concerted effort to emphasize the run game and run out the clock
“Well I don’t necessarily think it was a concerted effort. We change personnel and we went to our two tight ends, which certainly can incorporate some more runs. I thought the runs were just well-executed. We were getting first down, second down, first down. That helps the play calling when you can stay in phase and not have those third-and-longs.”
On if he is able to have fun while he’s playing
“I enjoyed that. That was a good team that we played. We felt really motivated to score points against these guys. You saw their offense. They are capable of scoring points. Our defense did a heck of a job answering their challenge. We were motivated to be on top of our game offensively – to score points – touchdowns, not field goals. I thought we did that today. We certainly enjoyed that.”
On whether he knew 52 points were a franchise record
“I did not know that. May have to give ‘old Thunder an IV after this one (laughs).”
On the run game
“Like I’ve said each week – running the football does open up some things in the passing game. We want to be balanced. I thought our run game was solid. We were going downhill and that can make a defense play certain coverages to stop the run. That opens up some one-on-one passing. I thought we had pretty good balance today.”
On the second half of the game where it seemed like Manning knew everything the Eagles defense was going to use against them
“Some of those were called plays, some of those were called ‘check with me plays.’ The running game was really solid in the second half. You can go from first-and-10 to second-and-3. That makes for pretty good offensive execution and allows you to do different things in the passing game and the running game.”
On if he’s happy to be on a normal Sunday-to-Sunday game schedule this week
“Yeah, it’ll be good to get back – we have a tough road game next week against Dallas.”
On if he could have ever imagined this level of success at the lowest point of his injury recovery a few years back
“Like I said, that was a long time ago that seems like. We’ve come a long ways since then. We are just one week at a time. This was a good win. It’s always good to play well at home. We have a good, tough test next week and we’re going to try to do our jobs.”
For more Broncos news and updates, visit Broncos Central.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.