Manning, Broncos look unstoppable so far
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP)
Of all the ways Peyton Manning and the Denver offense have dominated over the first two games of the season, this one probably says the most:
Had they not scored at all in the first half of either game, they would still be tied with Green Bay for the league lead in points.
The Broncos followed their opening-night victory over the Super Bowl champion Ravens with an equally impressive victory over the champs from the year before, the New York Giants. They broke the 40-point mark for the second straight week - a feat accomplished by this franchise only once, in 1976, a year before they made their first Super Bowl.
Of their 90 points so far, 66 of them have come in the second half.
''Someone asked me about fire and brimstone speeches'' at halftime, coach John Fox said Monday. ''That doesn't have anything to do with winning or losing football games. You've got to adjust and this game's about adjusting. Obviously, halftime is your biggest window to make those adjustments.''
Helped by the adjustments, to say nothing of the snap-by-snap modification Manning makes at the line of scrimmage, the 16th-year veteran has become the first quarterback in NFL history to start the season with nine touchdown passes and no interceptions. His 131.0 passer rating leads the league and Denver ranks third in total offense and first in scoring, by 24 points over the Packers.
Manning also joined Brett Favre and Dan Marino as only the third quarterback to throw for 60,000 yards in his career - a mere footnote by the end of Sunday's latest blowout, given all the numbers he's been putting up.
In all, there's quite a different feeling around Broncos headquarters this year than two games into last season, when Manning was still finding his way around Denver and the Broncos had dropped to 1-1 after the quarterback threw three interceptions in the first quarter in a 27-21 loss at Atlanta.
That offense was still finding its rhythm.
This offense looks like it's been together for years.
In addition to time spent together, Manning has been afforded a few more playmakers on offense for this season.
Everyone knows about Wes Welker, who so far leads the team with 12 catches for 106 yards and three scores
Tight end Julius Thomas is showing signs of being one of those freakishly hard-to-defend players at his position - speedy and 6-foot-5, 255 pounds. He has 11 catches for 157 yards and three scores.
Bubba Caldwell, a forgotten man in Denver last season, has only caught two passes this season, but for 64 yards and one score.
The Broncos also added Montee Ball at running back, though his fumble into the end zone in Denver's first drive against the Giants reinforced the idea that Knowshon Moreno (13 carries, 93 yards) might be the safer choice for now.
''I don't think there was a conscious effort to limit'' Ball's carries, Fox said, when asked if the fumble changed his rotation.
But given how potent this offense is so far, mistakes really stand out.
Against the Giants, Welker dropped two of the eight passes thrown his way.
Ball's fumble was a reprise of a problem that plagued Ronnie Hillman in the preseason, knocking both of them down on the depth chart, and keeping Denver scoreless in the first quarter this season.
The Broncos got a dose of bad news when left tackle Ryan Clady went out with a left foot injury, the severity of which Fox would not reveal Monday.
Denver also committed 13 penalties for 132 yards against the Giants; eight of those fouls were against the defensive backs.
''We've got to coach it better, we've got to do it better,'' Fox said. ''That's what practice is for and I'm sure when we get back started, that will be an emphasis.''
Kick returner Trindon Holliday bobbled the opening kickoff, which put the Broncos in a hole. But in the third quarter, he returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown.
Indeed, sorting through the areas for improvement feels a bit like nitpicking for a team that, so far, can't really be stopped.
Fox, who built up his resume coaching the defensive side of the ball, was asked if he spends time thinking about how he would stop his own offense.
''Yeah, every day,'' Fox said. ''You're always looking, always reevaluating. It's what we do. Whether you're a player or a coach in this thing, these games are tough. They're hard to win, hard to succeed.''
But so far, the Broncos are making it look easy.
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