Preview: Perfection’s latest test is Denver at Mile High
Despite a sore right ankle, Peyton Manning is expected to play in the Denver Broncos’ showdown with unbeaten Kansas City. So is beleaguered Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
Bowe was arrested this past weekend but is slated to start as Kansas City tries to remain the NFL’s only perfect team after Sunday night’s visit to Denver.
An MRI Monday showed no additional damage to Manning’s ankle, but he participated only in walkthroughs Wednesday.
“It’s certainly my preference to be out (at practice), but I’m trying to do what’s best for the team in order for me to get healthy,” Manning said.
The Broncos’ star has been dealing with a sore ankle since taking hits to that area in back-to-back games last month. He took another one in a 28-20 win in San Diego this past Sunday, but interim coach Jack Del Rio said the veteran remains on track to start.
Manning will face a defense that has a league-best 36 sacks, with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali combining for 20. Denver has given up the second-fewest in the league (13), but eight have come in the last three games. The biggest concern has been at left tackle, where Chris Clark has been inconsistent since Ryan Clady was lost for the season with a foot injury.
“(Manning) will definitely play this week, so that’s good news,” said Del Rio, who is leading the team while John Fox recovers from heart surgery. “We’re definitely on high alert in wanting to protect our quarterback. We didn’t do it as well as we could (against San Diego), and we have an even greater challenge this week in the team that’s sacked quarterbacks more than anyone in this league.”
With four touchdowns and 330 yards against San Diego, Manning remains on pace for NFL single-season records in both categories. While trying to stay on target to break those marks, he’ll seek to get Denver (8-1) a share of first place in the AFC West and spoil Kansas City’s attempt at a franchise-best start.
The Chiefs (9-0) enjoyed their bye week but didn’t emerge unscathed as Bowe’s arrest Sunday could serve as a lingering distraction.
The Pro Bowl wide receiver was pulled over for speeding in Riverside, Mo., and also charged with possession of marijuana. Bowe posted $750 bond and is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 18.
Instead of talking to reporters earlier this week, Bowe chose to apologize through a statement. The Chiefs cannot discipline one of their all-time leading wide receivers for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, and he likely won’t face penalties until after his court date. There’s a chance, however, that commissioner Roger Goodell could potentially hand down a one-game suspension or a fine.
‘”There are rules and regulations put in place and we’ll abide by the rules and regulations, and we’ll make sure we take all of the information that comes out as it goes through the process,” coach Andy Reid said. “That’s where we’re going with it.”
“I addressed him, had that opportunity to talk to him, and I’ll leave it at that. There are laws, rules and regulations, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Bowe, who signed a five-year, $56 million extension before this season, is currently on pace for one of the worst seasons in his career. His 33 receptions are second on the team behind running back Jamaal Charles’ 47, and he’s third in receiving yards with 369.
Bowe, however, has a combined 19 catches for 279 yards in his last two visits to Denver. He missed last season’s trip due to broken ribs but enters this one after registering season highs of seven receptions and 67 yards in a 23-13 win in Buffalo on Nov. 3.
The Chiefs used defensive touchdowns from Hali and Sean Smith to match their 9-0 start from 2003 and offset a season-low 210 yards from their offense against Buffalo.
Alex Smith completed 65.5 percent of his passes (19 of 29) for a season-low 124 yards, and will face the Broncos for the second time in his career. He led San Francisco to a 26-23 overtime win in Denver on Dec. 31, 2006.
Charles, the league’s fifth-leading rusher at 725 yards, has enjoyed recent success against the Broncos with a combined 576 yards in the last five meetings. He had a total of 160 in last season’s two games but couldn’t prevent Denver’s first season sweep since 2007.
Manning threw for 589 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception in those two wins. His three TD passes started a streak of 31 unanswered points in a 38-3 home rout Dec. 30, and his 30-yard toss to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter Nov. 25 put the Broncos ahead for good in a 17-9 win in Kansas City.
Reid’s teams, though, have been historically successful returning from byes. While in Philadelphia, he won 13 straight such games until falling to then-unbeaten Atlanta last season.
The Chiefs and Broncos will meet again in Kansas City on Dec. 1.