DENVER (AP) — Forget fast-break football. This was steel-cold efficiency.
Peyton Manning made quick work of the Philadelphia Eagles in a warp-speed game between the NFL’s top two offenses, both of which like to snap the ball quickly.
The Denver Broncos scored more points than they ever had in their 54-year history on Sunday, blowing out the Eagles 52-20 behind Manning’s four touchdown throws and two special teams scores.
“Might have to give old Thunder an IV after this one,” Manning said of the white Arabian gelding who trots around the Sports Authority Field following touchdowns.
If there’s any IV bags left, that is.
With two TD passes each to Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, Manning completed all but a half dozen of his 34 throws for 327 yards.
He didn’t even step on the field in the fourth quarter and cooled his cleats on the sideline for a 12-minute stretch in the first half, no less.
Just another day in the life of Manning, whose 16 TD passes are the most in the first month of a season, besting the previous mark of 14 set by Don Meredith in 1966 and tied by Kurt Warner in 1999.
Manning also joined Milt Plum in 1960 as the only quarterbacks to throw that many touchdown passes without an interception.
“We have high expectations for ourselves and want to go out there and score a lot of points,” Welker said. “We were able to do that today.”
Just as they have all season, piling up 49, 41, 37 and 52 points, thanks mostly to Manning, who’s off to the best start of his storied career and helped Denver outgain Michael Vick and the Eagles 472 yards to 450.
Manning got off to a rather slow start but drove the Broncos (4-0) on a trio of long touchdown drives in the third quarter to make this one another laugher. Those drives covered 80, 80 and 65 yards and not once did the Broncos face a third down in any of them.
“He’s efficient, man,” marveled Champ Bailey. “And hopefully he gets better — I don’t know how, but hopefully he does — because this guy’s a prime example of what it takes to be a great quarterback in this league.
“I know a lot of quarterbacks wish they could do it like that.”
Denver collected 35 first downs overall and only five of them were on third down conversions.
“I think it is disconcerting,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “But you’re also playing against an offense that four teams have tried to stop them and they haven’t yet. I don’t have an answer.”
No one has figured out the Broncos after their halftime adjustments yet.
“We find kind of our second wind,” Eric Decker said. “That’s something we’ve trained for, to be able to play 60 minutes, to be able to finish in the second half.
“That’s what we do best. We have a lot of confidence coming out of the locker room that we’re going to score or shut them down defensively and put this game away.”
The Eagles (1-3) also allowed two TDs on special teams in losing for the third straight time, all to AFC West opponents: Trindon Holliday’s 105-yard kickoff return and Steven Johnson’s blocked punt, which he scooped up himself and returned for a 17-yard score.
Matt Prater’s 53-yard field goal capped Denver’s 15th straight regular-season win, which bested the franchise mark of 14 set in 1997-98 and also broke the previous franchise scoring record of 50 points set against San Diego on Oct. 6, 1963.
Only the 1966 Dallas Cowboys, with 183 points, scored more than the Broncos’ 179 in their first four games.
Holliday’s sixth TD return in 21 career games oddly worked in Philadelphia’s favor, keeping Manning on the sideline for more than 12 minutes on the game clock.
“I think it did have a little bit of an effect on us,” Manning said. “We probably had our worst series, had a three-and-out, after that.”
After throwing a 6-yard scoring pass to Welker, Manning stood impatiently on the sideline for the final 10:19 of the first quarter and the first 42 seconds of the second quarter, and when he did get the ball back, his 40-yard pass went off a wide-open Decker’s fingertips.
Then, Welker slipped on a third down screen pass and Manning was back on the sideline watching Chris Polk’s 4-yard touchdown run cut it to 14-13.
Knowshon Moreno’s 4-yard TD run made it 21-13 at halftime.
The Eagles became the first team in NFL history to accumulate at least 1,000 yards passing and 750 yards rushing through the first four games of the season.
That was of little consolation.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said.
Notes: Holliday’s TD return rate of 1 per every 3.5 games played is the best since the 1970 merger. … Vick finished 14 of 27 for 248 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions and ran eight times for 41 yards.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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