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Old 12-17-2012, 12:38 PM   #1
Bronco Rob
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Default Perfectionist Peyton Manning laughs at self after Broncos show they’re no joke

Perfectionist Peyton Manning laughs at self after Broncos show they’re no joke

Michael Silver 8 hours ago

BALTIMORE – Even before the ball hit the ground, you knew the explosion was coming.

When Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning received a shotgun snap on third-and-1 in the first quarter of Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium, he read the Baltimore Ravens' defense and threw a quick pass toward the left sideline, where he expected tight end Joel Dreessen to be. Dreessen, however, had planted his foot and turned upfield, an obvious miscommunication between signal-caller and intended receiver.

Manning, in case you've been ignoring pro football for the past decade-and-a-half, does not suffer route-botchers gladly. Sure enough, when he got to the Broncos' sideline, the NFL's ultimate perfectionist chewed out the offending party. Himself. "I did. I did!" Manning said after the Broncos' ninth consecutive victory, this one by a 34-17 score, was complete. "That one was my fault."

Some of us saw this coming a month-and-a-half ago, when it became apparent that a record fifth MVP award and a third Super Bowl appearance were well within Manning's reach.

Fourteen games into the 2012 season, Manning's comeback tour must be regarded as a resounding success. At 36, and with four neck surgeries in his immediate past, he may not be what he once was physically. Suffice it to say that no one on the Broncos seems to mind.

"I'll tell you what – whether he has lost any arm strength or whatever, you can't mess with his brain," said Champ Bailey, Denver's perennial All-Pro cornerback. "He is as sharp as they come."

Manning carved up the Ravens with ruthless precision on Sunday, completing 17 of 28 passes for 204 yards, including a sublime 51-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker off a double-move sideline route with 9:53 left in the third quarter. A little more than two minutes later, revived running back Knowshon Moreno (22 carries, 118 yards) scored on a 6-yard run to put Denver up 31-3, and it was raining boos in Baltimore, where 71,317 fans had been forced to come to terms with the home team's fate just before halftime.

Imagine what the man could accomplish if he and his receivers were simpatico. For all the damage Manning once did in Indy with the likes of Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, he's struggling to bring Decker, Demaryius Thomas and friends up to speed. Falling short of his pre-existing standard is something Manning may never accept, but at least he's coming to terms with the imperfections.

"I think you have to remind yourself that it's not going to be like clockwork," Manning said as he walked down a hallway toward the Broncos' team bus. "I guess I'm used to playing with guys I played with for so many years that it was like clockwork. It took time to get it that way. There are certain things we still need to improve on, but hey, we're still a team that's only been together 15 weeks, as far as real games, and the idea is just to try to keep getting better.

"We're of course very much dealing with 'the now' and trying to get it all done right away, and so it's gotten better each week. But it's probably never going to be what it would be if we played together for five years."

The Broncos are looking more and more like a team running a "Go" pattern to the Super Bowl. With Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (10-4) suffering a 41-34 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, Denver (11-3) now has a clear path to a first-round bye.

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