ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Great isn’t good enough for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
They’re treating opponents like the scout squad they practice against, moving up and down the field with little resistance, seemingly the only ones who can stop them is themselves.
Manning shrugged off yet another record-setting performance in a 52-20 dismantling of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, saying the Broncos (4-0) are still a work in progress.
Coach John Fox concurred, saying Monday, “I expect us to get better. People look at me funny when I say that, but there’s still a lot of areas we need to improve.”
His list of worries:
Inconsistent ground game.
Not finishing teams off.
“We left points out on the field yesterday,” Fox suggested. “… So, there’s plenty to work on.”
The league’s other 31 teams would love to have Fox’s problems.
Manning, just two years removed from the neck injuries and surgeries that threatened to cut short his career, is off to the best start of any quarterback in NFL history.
He’s 16-0 after one month.
Sixteen touchdown passes, zero interceptions.
No NFL quarterback has ever had a September like Manning, who completed 75 percent of his passes for 1,470 yards as the Broncos rolled over the Ravens, Giants, Raiders and Eagles by an average score of 45-22.
Only Danny Trevathan’s fumble at the goal line on an interception return in the opener prevented them from topping the 1966 Dallas Cowboys as the most prolific team in league history after four games.
“It’s always good to do good,” Fox said. “The game is only fun when you win and I think we’re doing it pretty well as a team right now. We just need that to continue. If we spend time breaking our arms patting ourselves on the back, it won’t happen.”
At this rate, Manning would throw for 64 touchdowns, besting Tom Brady’s record of 50, and 5,880 yards, topping Drew Brees’ mark of 5,476.
Numbers, records, accolades, Manning dismisses them like so many pass-rushers he eludes in the pocket, and setting the franchise record of 15 straight regular-season wins Sunday was little cause for celebration.
“The recaps don’t mean a whole lot,” Manning said. “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.”
Wes Welker, who already has six touchdown catches, as many as he had all of last year in New England, is another member of the unsatisfied club.
“I know there are some things that I could have done better personally, but I’m sure everybody feels that way in this locker room,” Welker said. “That’s how you get better, those little details, getting better at them and going out there and fixing them.”
This no-nonsense approach is by design.
Manning noted that Broncos executive vice president John Elway fostered an uncomfortable environment at team headquarters following Denver’s playoff loss against the Baltimore Ravens.
Elway had been down this lonely road before. The Broncos were also 13-3 and the AFC’s top seed in 1997 when they lost at home to Jacksonville, then bounced back to win the next two Super Bowls under Elway.
The two iconic QBs spoke of the parallels and what it takes to have a similar rebound over many a round of golf in the offseason.
“The great thing about Peyton is he’s been around, this is his 16th year now and he knows the ups and downs. He’s been through those disappointments in Indianapolis, also, but he’s a resilient guy and I think that he’s even more confident and what happened last year even adds more resolve,” Elway said.
Every year, Manning picks out something that will serve as his burnishing stone for the upcoming season. He didn’t have to look far to find this year’s motivation.
Manning has been on a mission ever since trudging off the field following Denver’s double-overtime playoff loss to the Ravens, the Broncos’ only slip-up since last Oct. 7, a defeat that he said left a scar on him and the franchise.
“Our goals are high, make no mistake about it,” Fox said. “It felt like we had that opportunity a year ago and let it slip through our hands. As I mentioned after that, there should be a fire in everyone’s belly to work hard to improve on that.”
Notes: Twitter was atwitter Sunday night with an erroneous sighting of Broncos DC Jack Del Rio in Los Angeles to interview for the head coaching job at his alma mater, USC. Del Rio, who is under contract through the end of this season, was actually at a Denver steakhouse with Fox.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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