Arlington, Texas • For all but one player with a locker at Dove Valley, for John Fox and his coaching staff, for John Elway and his front office, here’s hoping they don’t suffer from insecurity.
This is not so much about the Broncos. This is about Peyton Manning. It was Manning’s quarterback brilliance that beat the Dallas Cowboys, 51-48, in a Texas-style shootout Sunday.
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And nothing but Manning.
"Hey, I get it," said Broncos receiver Wes Welker, who also was part of Tom Brady’s record-setting offenses in New England. "He’s a great player. You can’t take anything away from him. You don’t mind talking about the quarterback when they play like that."
Denver’s defense provided little challenge to the twirling dervish, pinpoint passer that was Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. So bad were the Broncos on defense, Manning was behind two touchdowns before he got a chance to finish his first drive.
The Broncos were so bad early, they had but one chance to avoid their first loss. Manning. So what else is new?
From 14 points down, Manning on his next five possessions threw four touchdown passes and ran in for another score on a perfectly executed hidden-ball keeper to put the Broncos up 15 points a few minutes into the second half. In a wild back-and-forth second half, Matt Prater’s 28-yard field goal provided the winning points as the clock ran out. Linebacker Danny Trevathan set up the winning score with an interception at the Cowboys’ 24.
Leading up to the game, Cowboys veteran linebacker Ernie Sims was quoted as saying he was sick of hearing about Manning.
Hey Ernie: Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning.
"I think I might have caught a glimpse of that on ESPN or something, but that wasn’t anything we used for motivation or anything," said Broncos tight end Julius Thomas. "You’re going to hear about Peyton when he’s playing like that. What did he throw, four again today? Well, guess what? He’ll be back on the news, again."
The Broncos better get used to hearing how Manning is single-handedly carrying them. Sure, somebody has to block for him, and catch his passes. And Manning can’t play defense, even if he did show he can run around left end.
But the Broncos are 5-0 primarily because Manning started his season with 20 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. He threw his first interception of the season into the Cowboys stadium glare with seconds left in the third quarter.
But after Romo rallied the Cowboys to a 48-41 lead midway through the fourth quarter with a more athletic, even balletic performance, Manning calmly continued his carving of the Dallas defense, going 5-for-5 for 77 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Knowshon Moreno to make it 48-48.
"It’s hard to enjoy a touchdown drive when their offense is hot and you really are going to have to go out there and do it again," Manning said. "We talked about it last night, being able to handle being in a storm."
There was 2:39 remaining, tie game, Dallas ball. And finally, Romo reverted back to the Romo that so many here love to hate. He cracked. Deep in his own territory on second and long, Romo threw into a double coverage. Trevathan — carted off the field during practice Wednesday with little more than a banged up knee, as it turned out — made a diving interception at the Cowboys’ 24.
"I baited him," Trevathan said. "Romo threw it and I felt like, man, hopefully I don’t drop the ball when I get in the end zone this time. I fell to the ground and said, ‘Forget it.’ "
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