John Fox insists it’s not just coach-speak when he says his
unbeaten Denver Broncos have plenty of room for improvement.
He, of course, isn’t referring to their stellar aerial game led
by Peyton Manning, who Sunday will face a Dallas Cowboys defense
that hasn’t been very good against the pass.
Manning is off the best start of his career heading into his
first visit to Dallas’ $1.2 billion stadium. He leads the league in
completions (117), completion percentage (75.0), yards (1,470),
touchdowns (16) and passer rating (138.0) while not throwing an
Manning went 28 of 34 for 327 yards and four touchdowns – two
each to Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker – before sitting out the
fourth quarter of a 52-20 win over Philadelphia on Sunday. Denver
set a team record for points.
The Broncos are averaging league bests of 44.8 points and 483.0
yards of offense. Last week’s win was a team-record 15th straight
in the regular season, and Manning extended his streak of throwing
at least one TD pass to 27 games.
“He’s efficient, man,” defensive back Champ Bailey said. “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
Despite Manning’s success, Fox doesn’t think his team is perfect
despite the Broncos (4-0) getting off to such a solid start. He may
be nitpicking, but he’d like to see more from the running game and
better defense in the fourth quarter.
Denver averaged 86.0 yards rushing in its first two contests,
though that has increased to 152.5 over the last two. The Broncos
have allowed a touchdown in the final quarter of each game.
“It’s still early in the season and I expect us to get better,”
Fox said. “People look at me funny when I say that, but there’s
still a lot of areas we need to improve at and can improve at.”
The last time Manning faced the Cowboys, he went 36 of 48 for
365 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw four interceptions in
Indianapolis’ 38-35 overtime loss Dec. 5, 2010.
Dallas (2-2) is hoping it can have that kind of success against
Manning this time around as well, especially after allowing 506
yards and 20 unanswered points in a 30-21 loss to San Diego on
The Cowboys gave up 401 yards and three touchdowns through the
air and are tied with Minnesota and the New York Giants for worst
in the league with 10 TD passes allowed.
They rank 27th in the league in pass defense at 304.5 yards per
“Yeah, we made mistakes, but it’s never going to happen again,”
defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. “People say never say never, but
I feel like it’s never going to happen again playing a game like
that. That’s just the way I feel about it.”
Coach Jason Garrett realizes that Manning is just a part of the
challenge his defense faces this week. Welker is tied for the NFL
lead with six touchdown receptions and Thomas is tied for sixth
with 393 receiving yards.
“He’s obviously as good of a quarterback who has ever played
this game, and he’s got a lot of weapons,” Garrett said. “Not only
do you have this incredibly good quarterback who has a great
understanding of what he wants to do, but he’s got some weapons to
do it with.”
Tony Romo is having a solid season with eight touchdowns and one
interception while ranking fourth with a 105.0 passer rating. He’s
completed 72.4 percent of his passes – his career best in a full
season is 66.3 percent in 2011 – after going 27 of 37 for 244 yards
and two touchdowns last week, both to Dez Bryant.
DeMarco Murray ran for 70 yards against the Chargers and is
third in the league with 356 on the season, but Denver is allowing
a league-low 74.0 rushing yards per game. The Broncos are 30th with
an average of 316.3 passing yards allowed, but Garrett believes
that number has been inflated due to Denver holding large leads in
“If you analyze the statistics, they’ve been ahead in a lot of
games and teams have had to throw the ball and not run it quite as
much,” Garrett said. “They’re very stout against the run, and
they’re willing to give up those (passing) yards to win the
Broncos weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan is questionable
after suffering a knee injury toward the end of Wednesday’s
practice. Trevathan, a second-year pro, is second on the team with
30 tackles and 24 unassisted tackles and has a sack, an
interception and four pass breakups.
Denver has won four straight meetings with Dallas, taking the
most recent one 17-10 on Oct. 4, 2009.