Peyton at 37—The Best From the Best

Peyton Manning is surpassing even the highest peaks he himself set, and someone who knows him well thinks it's only gonna get better. Plus, more Week 4 thoughts and Andy Benoit's quarter-way All-Pro team

Peyton Manning might have just played the best four-game stretch of his illustrious career. (Michael Ciaglo/Colorado Springs Gazette/MCT)
Peyton Manning might have just played the best four-game stretch of his illustrious career. (Michael Ciaglo/Colorado Springs Gazette/MCT)

On a beautiful day in Denver, it was hard to imagine Peyton Manning being better. Ever. We’ve been saying that for a month now, since the seven-touchdown-pass extravaganza on a stormy opening Thursday night rout of the Ravens. But Sunday, the 37-year-old quarterback living out his wildest dreams continued this run of greatness that is unprecedented even to him.

On Manning’s final four touchdown drives of the day against Philadelphia, Denver never ran a third-down play.

Denver had 12 second downs on the four drives. Manning converted all of them into first downs.

Eleven plays, 80 yards. Ten plays, 80 yards. Eight plays, 80 yards. Seven plays, 65 yards.

That’s 36 plays, 28 points, 305 yards. And no third downs.

Ninety minutes after the 52-20 victory over Philadelphia, I told one of the four musketeers Manning uses as his weapons, wide receiver Eric Decker, about the no-third-down thing. He paused for three or four seconds, taking it in, then said: “That is crazy. Crazy. But our mentality is to convert everything. First down, second down, first down, touchdown.’’

Another pause. “I have to say, hearing that is really rewarding,’’ Decker said.

I hear this on Twitter and email all the time: Enough of Peyton Manning! Not today. Sunday was Manning’s 228th regular season game, and would you believe me if I told you that, at an age two years past when Terry Bradshaw retired, he is in the midst of the best playing stretch of his career? You can look it up. Over a four-game span, Manning has never been better, and it’s not very close. Ranked by passer rating, here are the best four-game stretches of Manning’s career:

 peyton-manning

“I’ll tell you what’s scary,’’ said Tony Dungy, Manning’s coach in that 2004 season, in the NBC Football Night in America green room Sunday night. “Peyton will be better in November. He’s still getting used to his receivers, I can tell you, the longer he works with guys, the better they’ll all be.’’

Manning has been working with two of his four receivers, Decker and DeMaryius Thomas, for 18 months. He’s been working with the other two, Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas, for six months—though he did have some time with Julius Thomas just after he signed in March 2012, before the tight end underwent ankle surgery that limited him to four games in ’12—and zero catches.

Dungy disagreed with me about this Sunday night, but I think one factor in Manning’s favor is having Thomas, Thomas, Welker and Decker together as his receiving weapons. In Indianapolis he usually had three big ones together: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and either Brandon Stokley or Dallas Clark. (Stokley and Clark were Colts from 2003 to ’06, but Clark didn’t emerge as a big receiving threat until after Stokley left for Denver in 2007.)

Peyton will be better in November. He’s still getting used to his receivers, I can tell you, the longer he works with guys, the better they’ll all be. —Tony Dungy

“I think a big part of it is we all want to win for this guy,’’ said Decker. “The line plays like, ‘Don’t let Peyton get hit.’ The receivers are like, ‘Run that route exactly the way it should be run.’ It goes to defense and special teams too. It’s a sign of unselfishness. I also think it has to do with our expectations. Even after a game like this, the attitude in the locker room was, ‘That was good, not great.’ That’s Peyton.’’

This afternoon, after a brief workout and some weightlifting, all of the Denver offensive players will gather in a Broncos meeting room. No coaches, just players. For one to two hours (the time varies; when they’re finished they’re finished), the players will look at the tape of Sunday’s games. They started this in Manning’s first year last fall. Anyone can speak up about anything. Communication on the field will be discussed. Audibles will be discussed. Route-running, blocking and blitz pickup … everything they see from every offensive snap.

“Peyton is kind of the leader of the session,’’ said Decker. “It’s an open forum. You got something good to say, say it. You got something to correct about somebody else, say it. We’re the players. We’re out there. Coaches are great, but we’re the ones out there with the game going so fast trying to figure things out on the fly. It’s a great thing for us to be able to talk among ourselves and make the corrections we need to make to get better. I’m a fan of it.”

In the first game of the season, against Baltimore, Julius Thomas caught a pass on a seam route and took a big hit from a Baltimore safety. Said Thomas: “When we came in and reviewed the game film, he’s like, ‘Do you understand that seam route?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ He texted me a couple of days while we were practicing for the New York Giants and he said, ‘You know, I’m really liking the way you’re running these seam routes—they’re a lot better.’ I just texted him back and said, ‘Your mom only has to tell you one time that the stove is hot.’ The message was delivered by the safety from Baltimore: I’ve got to run these routes just a little bit differently so I don’t have to keep taking these hits. It just shows you how well he knows the game.’’

What’s next? The Cowboys, at Dallas. Manning’s onto the Dallas defense, with Cover 2 coordinator Monte Kiffin this week’s challenge. Cover 2: The Indianapolis defense favored by his old coach. Dungy was smiling Sunday night at the thought of it. “Peyton only practiced against that defense every day with us for years,’’ said Dungy.

Maybe Kiffin can force Manning to convert a third down. That’d be one small victory.

***

The Dot-Dot-Dot Section

Yes, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman ran the game-tying interception at Houston back 58 yards with one shoe on. He told me that when the Seahawks were down 20-3 at halftime, “The locker room was fine. Upbeat. You’re molded, you’re shaped by fire from games like this. We showed we could grind out a game on the road against a great team.” … Seattle at home: ‘Hawks 74, Foes 20. Seattle on the road: ‘Hawks 35, Foes 27 … I don’t care what they say: The Houston Texans have to be having grave doubts about quarterback Matt Schaub’s ability to win a Super Bowl. That’s three straight games with Schaub throwing a pick-6 … You saw the instant replay snafu last night, probably, with Bill Belichick steaming about the Julio Jones catch that couldn’t be reviewed. The rules when the replay system goes haywire: When the system is down during a challenge the referee has to stay at the monitor for two minutes while the replay technician attempts to fix the issue. If it is not fixed during that time period there is no challenge and no charged timeout. That’s what happened in Atlanta. If the system becomes operational during the two-minute period, the replay can commence. I doubt there’d have been enough evidence to overturn the Jones catch anyway … In the span of three plays of the second half, the Patriots got key plays from three players not on the team at this time last year—a touchdown catch by Kenbrell Thompkins, an interception by Aqib Talib and a 24-yard catch leading to a field goal by fourth-round rookie receiver Josh Boyce. The longer Tom Brady can work with these guys, the better New England will be … So I had The MMQB’s analytics ace, Andy Benoit, post his All-Pro team through a quarter of the season, which you’ll see on the next page. My awards at the quarter pole: MVP and Offensive Player, Peyton Manning (no kidding!); Defensive Player, Ndamukong Suh; Offensive and Defensive Rookies, DeAndre Hopkins and Kiko Alonso; Coach, Bill Belichick … Rob Chudzinski on the Browns’ two-game streak: “Brian Hoyer’s got the knack to know where to go with the ball like a veteran. Having Josh Gordon back really helps. On defense, Barkevious Mingo’s energy has been huge for us, and Joe Haden’s taken on a great receiver every week and really been strong.’’

***

Looking ahead to the 9-0 Bowl.

It is ridiculously early. But in seven weeks, on Nov. 17, there could be a beautiful game in Denver: The 9-0 Broncos hosting 9-0 Kansas City. And two weeks after that, a beautiful rematch at Arrowhead Stadum. Check out the two schedules before then:

broncos-chiefs 

Postscript: Denver travels to New England in Week 12. Imagine Denver playing a 9-0 bowl against Kansas City one week, then a 10-0 bowl against the Patriots the next.

Funny thing. Lots of NFL things that look so intriguing in September usually get blown up in October. 

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287 comments
STWolf
STWolf

this kind of over-reaching, over-sensationalized butt-kissing in week 4 is a complete waste of time.

jason12345
jason12345

Belicheck didn't need as many seasons to match Chuck Noll, but Noll's teams didn't play as many games in a regular season. You forgot to mention that. 

TravisHastings
TravisHastings

As for the Haiku, come on Peter! You're usually better then that! Four games in, a re-building Philly is 1-3, with loses to a resurgent San Diego and Kanas City and what is turning out to be a "best team ever?" Broncos. I'm not saying Eagles don't have issues, but the AFC West is the best division in football. If you were predicting Philly as a playoff team this year, well, that's on you buddy! 

LittleOne4u
LittleOne4u

Football needs more Manning charactors and and less of the divas and jail bait. And yes, you can be a diva jail bait person all-in-one.

GooGulsux
GooGulsux

National media will hype Peyton Manning until Broncos season ends ... but Russell Wilson is the best QB in the league.

Seahawks would be 2-2 without him.

Don't comment if you haven't WATCHED the Houston game ... the stats don't tell the story.

He's doing it with 80% of his OL on IR

wavemkr
wavemkr

you know it's been a bad week for the cowboys when Peter "the Cowboys Hating" King actually puts a positive note along side the listing of dallas at 13 on the fine 15 (note about Sean Lee's 18 tackles).  But not to be too positive about the cowboys, King puts a post about the jerry letting lottery winners inside the draft war room.  Note what's more important is that $40Mil is used for education.  This should be the highlight, instead of making fun of jerry letting someone see the draft board.  maybe jerry see's the NFL for what it really is..... entertainment and money making, nothing more.  but at least it did help the cowboy hater King post something derogatory about the cowboys.  What would a MMQB be without something negative about the cowboys from King.

GT500456
GT500456

Honestly, who was stupid enough to hire Lame Kitten in the first place?    I know Al Davis does some very unconventional things, but why would ANYONE hire Kiffin after the debacle with the Raiders?     He's clearly not suited to be anything other than a position coach in college, or  possibly an assistant coach in high school.

donald5
donald5

Peyton's problem is home field advantage now.  I'm not sure 2 home games in freezing and possibly snowy weather is in his favor.  Then the Super Bowl in New Jersey.  Does anyone really think Peyton is going to win 3 straight cold weather games against the top competition in the NFL?  

HorizontalGophers
HorizontalGophers

"What team is going to pay good money for a 53 percent passer (since the start of 2012) who goes renegade on a team when times are tough?" 

Trick question. It's Houston isn't it?

WR2


skidoo
skidoo

Seems to me the media especially is trashing Freeman and giving Schiano a good ole boys break .He is a horrible coach with that rah rah college I'm the new Vince Lombardi mentality . Especially after leaks about the drug program and not revealing it was for medical reasons

Go see 20 feet from Stardom a great Doc about backup singers in pop and rock outstanding movie

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Guess so. At this rate Peyton will reach the 60 td range in a league where mid to high 20's can put any QB in pro bowl

JuanAntonioPizarro
JuanAntonioPizarro

King was right, Miami got its butt whipped and today number 9 spot looks extremely generous. The Dolphins were unable to handle the spotlight of being 3-0 and had rookie written all over: the terrible outfit (sue the designer!); Tannehill; a run defense that barely made it to the game. Another game like the one last night and fin fans nightmares will drown us in the mid to late twenties standings, something we thought we were leaving behind.

Jesus Hitler
Jesus Hitler

Well credit where credit is due...the bizarre font-size problem seems to have been fixed this week.  Better editing seems to have taken place, as well.  Much cleaner this time-- credit to your team.

As a matter of fact, I only really have one complaint, and it isn't even about you (directly, anyway).  It's to all the clowns who failed to draft Joe Fauria, as referenced in his "Tweet of the Week" comment.  Just sad and embarrassing really that this guy somehow missed the cut.  A living testament to how little attention the rest of the country *actually* pays to Pac 12 football (there are teams besides USC, Oregon, and Stanford).  ANYBODY who watched so much as a 2-3 UCLA games last year could have told you this guy would be a steal as a 3rd rounder, let alone undrafted.  Baffling case of scouts focusing in the wrong places-- particularly considering what a sexy thing a good target tight end has become in today's NFL

jlinkner
jlinkner

Can you turn off those annoying Microsoft ads that are blocking your article?  How do we turn them off.

Other than that......I love your incites!

jlinkner
jlinkner

Could you turn off those annoying Microsoft ads that we can't close.

Natick4
Natick4

I am sure someone will quickly correct me, but if in fact Peyton Manning had stem cell therapy on the injured nerves in his throwing arm, then MOST of his body is 37 years old, but PARTS of his body may not be. In fact, the most important parts in relation to playing football may be much improved.

Muscle performance is a combination of the physical characteristics of the muscle, and the ability of nerve enervation to control those muscles. I hope the guy blows away every NFL QB record there is - it's good for the game, and I like to watch his mastery on the field. But, next season the NFL has got to come to terms with non-PED augmentation issues.

It is not far fetched to think that other players will (or already have) receive stem cell therapy on a systematic basis to improve muscle tone, recovery from injury, and muscle performance. At the athletic level that most NFL players achieve, already far beyond that of mere mortal men, stem cell therapy represents an undetectable avenue of performance enhancement that in the future may make traditional PEDs obsolete. 

Again, if in fact he did have some stem cell treatment, I am perplexed as to why the sports media has so far been quiet in linking his outstanding ability and the means by which he medically treated his throwing nerves.

Oh, and by the way, we have already seen players who got better as they got older...Clemens and Bonds!

BronzeBomber
BronzeBomber

Dungy should not be in the Hall of Fame just because he sabotaged each Colts postseason by sitting everybody for a few weeks.

EricS.Ellison
EricS.Ellison

Yes. I perfectly understand why Suh was not named 1 of your defensive players of the week.

FightingTard
FightingTard

Why is it that no one is questioning Peyton? 

Athlete has career threatening surgery, comes back at 37 an is having the best season of his career. Nah nothing there sounds suspicious, lets fete him a  hero and bow down before him.

What will the media do if it turns out Manning is on something?

pee-kay
pee-kay

I have read and seen COUNTLESS stories about Peyton Manning and his great start to the year.   I have read two stories regarding a player LOSING A PORTION OF HIS FINGER!!!  And this is deemed excessive!?!??!?!  Actually, probably is.... NOT AT ALL EXCESSIVE!!!!   Just grow that finger back and move on, sissy.  

MichaelMcKinney
MichaelMcKinney

Short Term 12.  Really goo,d small film about a half way house for teenagers.  Brie Larson, as the supervisor of the facility, gives an amazing performance.

Joe R2
Joe R2

PK has wet dreams about Peyton Manning

EaglesPdx
EaglesPdx

As a comparison, that was the Andy Reid built defense that allowed 52 Peyton Points.

That was Romeo Crennel's defense that has held opponents to 10.25 points per game.

Reid might the 2013 winner of the John Gruden, "Looking good with someone else's team" award. Difference of course is that Reid, unlike Gruden, has a solid rep of building good teams which Gruden does not.  But Reid inherited a much better base in KC than he left in Philly.

Fedorg4s
Fedorg4s

So for the All-Pro team Forte is ahead of AP and Shady because they're team records are worse? Oh and then there's Troy Polomalu, who's team is win less and hasn't even forced a turnover and he's ahead of Earl Thomas who is on an undefeated team with the best D. 

It's a sin that AP isn't first for All Pro list and that Earl Thomas and Eric Berry (best two safeties in the league) aren't there together. 

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

& sorry, but god bless Hall of Famer Marv Levy & his 4 Super Bowl losses...but Jimmy Johnson won 3 Super Bowls essentially, beating Levy for 2 of them...& he doesn't SNIFF the Hall? Peter, use your power...you know better...

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

Yeah, I'm sorry, Jimmy Johnson not in the Hall is a travesty for one reason only...HE WAS THE COACH *&* GM---Jerra Jones did not draft those players or build those teams, no matter the title, & the fact the Cowboys have been resolutely mediocre since Johnson left, even with all the funds in the world, really does say something. The fact that more GMs aren't in the Hall is a joke, & one of the pound-for-pound best GM/coaches ever not getting in is so silly as to be laughable. Dungy deserves to be in eventually, but he won one Super Bowl, & he wasn't the GM of either Tampa Bay or Indianapolis.

atmorris8117
atmorris8117

I think Tony Dungy is a tough case for the HOF. He won lots of regular season games with tremendous talent in Tampa and Indy but won just one Super Bowl and had many early exits in the playoffs. Also, he never quite got the Colts defense right despite supposedly being a defensive mastermind. Further, Gruden winning in Tampa the year after Dungy left hurts his cause.

LarryYelen
LarryYelen

I live in southwestern Ontario and, as such, receive sports radio from Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo.  I have grown accustomed to Monday mournings from WKNR, WFDN, and WGR respectively.  This morning, though, nothing but accolades and celebration!  So I got to wondering: when was the last time the Browns, Lions, and Bills all won in the same week?

LarryYelen
LarryYelen

Amazing how you didn't pick Matt Schaub as goat of the week or, at the very least, the co-goat of the week.  Flacco's decisions may have been bad (a couple of the picks were unlucky), but you don't see the throw that Schaub chose to make--he wasn't under duress--at any level above high school.  Put another way: can you imagine a certified NFL stud QB, such as Peyton Manning or Brady or Brees or Rivers or even Cutler, attempting that throw on his worst day?

TravisHastings
TravisHastings

@LittleOne4u Mannings have a diva streak. Remember when the boys were drafted and Archie called San Diego and told them don't draft Eli because he won't play there? Can't get much more diva then that! 

GrogChe
GrogChe

@donald5 Have you bothered to see his stats in cold weather?  He continues to perform at high levels.  Even in the Raven game the td he placed with Knowshone was perfect--even the commentators said that the weather was not effecting Peyton's arm.  BUT he throws one interception and suddenly he can't play in cold weather--sounds like the same type of propaganda coming out of Obama's mouth

donald5
donald5

@Jesus Hitler Well these are the same "clowns" that all passed on Arian Foster as well.  (the same guys who picked Fauria were clowns for whiffing on Foster, right?)  Is this a living testament to how little attention the rest of the country pays to the SEC?  Spare us the "nobody pays attention the PAC12 garbage".  The scouts don't give a flying flip about ESPN contracts or when the games start.  They watch the games regardless.  Read his draft profile.  A TE that gets tripped up a little too easily after the catch and does not block well in the run game.  While he should have been drafted, I hardly see it as a travesty worth some completely tangential and off topic rant on the MMQB.

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

@Natick4 good point. we can build em faster stronger than ever before. Fast forward 10 yrs from now. Stem cell Manning just threw his 100th TD for the season

JPM
JPM

@Natick4 Re: Stem Cell Therapy ... definitely intriguing.  Can you cite some proof or, failing that, a link to some reasonable speculation?

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

@FightingTard Manning has never been the biggest, strongest, or fastest QB.  PEDs don't make you any smarter and the only thing different with Manning at this point (post injury) is that he might be even smarter.  He's not threading needles 20 yards downfield like he used to even but, he's as good as ever at reading defenses.  His performance this year stems from extended familiarity with his teammates and his maturation as a QB (He could have won MVP #5 last year, and could get it this year).

RafalPruszyn-ski
RafalPruszyn-ski

@FightingTard He didn't just come back. He played last year. He has had time to heal and get work in with his receivers. His performance is not out of the ordinary for him. But yes, I agree that he is doping. the name of the drug? Wes Welker.

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

@liquidmuse3 Didn't Jimmy leave the Cowboys because Jerry Jones want him to relinquish the GM job?

Mike26
Mike26

@LarryYelen Larry, it was an incredibly stupid decision and play; however, he WAS under duress.  Everything else you said was correct.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@TravisHastings @LittleOne4uSo you have one tiny example from only one of the brothers in, what, 26 combined seasons?

Some diva streak.

Anyway, that incident with Eli was more business-related than anything else; Archie was convinced San Diego would be a dire career move for Eli.  So you can get *much* more 'diva' than that example, actually.

Carnifex
Carnifex

@GooGulsux but that doesn't make him the best QB in the league, just the one most valuable to his team. You're saying you'd turn down the chance to have Peyton, Brady, or Rodgers on your team?

RafalPruszyn-ski
RafalPruszyn-ski

@JahliSuwaghaman @FightingTard At this point he is a lock. I know, its early, but if he keeps this up, he is shattering records at the most important position and the team will go very very near undefeated. Who can match him this season when he has nearly twice as many TDs as the next guy? 4 TDs a game would come out to 64..round down and he can realistically go for 55 to 60. He would shatter the record by Brady.

GT500456
GT500456

@leehwgoc @Joe R2 So true, leehwgoc.    I wish The Lonely Island had put PK into their "Jizzed In My Pants" video with a line about Tom Brady.

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