NFL: Manning, Broncos hold off Chiefs 35-28
Kansas City, Mo. • As always, Peyton Manning did a lot of waving and pointing before the ball was snapped. What he should have done is wave after the snap. Keep going, Eric. Keep going. Hey, Demaryius, go long. Longer. Lon-ger! OK, here g-o-o-o-e-s!
At 37, Peyton Manning has become the NFL's new Mad Bomber.
The strong-armed quarterback. The deep thrower.
Thanks to Manning's long tosses to the likes of Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos rallied from a shaky start to defeat Kansas City, 35-28, Sunday and take control of their division and conference.
"I know it's a hot debate locally with the distance and the RPMs, whatever it is," Manning said about the perpetual concerns about his arm. "I enjoy it when they go for touchdowns."
Down 21-7 in the second quarter against a Chiefs' team inspired by its boisterous home crowd, Manning put the hush signal to Arrowhead Stadium by leading the Broncos to 28 unanswered points.
Manning's arm strength has been a question mark since he missed the 2011 season to recover from four neck surgeries. It became a discussion topic again last week when he threw for a season-low 150 yards in frigid, windy conditions at New England.
But against the Chiefs, Manning let 'er rip.
He connected on touchdown passes of 41 and 37 yards to Decker, who torched the Chiefs' man-to-man, press covering cornerbacks for four touchdowns. On another series, a 42-yard completion to Decker set up a short touchdown toss to running back Knowshon Moreno. On another drive, a 77-yard strike-and-run with Thomas set up a 15-yard scoring zinger to Decker.
"I think he showed people why he's so great," Decker said. "He can throw the football deep. We never had questions about that, but maybe outside people had speculations. We knew he could throw the football deep, and fortunately, we made enough plays today."
Early in the fourth quarter, Manning and Decker connected again, this time for a 1-yard fade route touchdown that turned out to be the winning score.
Who says Manning can't play in cool weather? It was 55 degrees at kickoff, brisk enough for Manning to wear a glove on his right passing hand.
It fit. Manning threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns. He has 4,125 passing yards and 41 touchdown passes with four games remaining. The NFL single-season record is 50 touchdown passes, set by New England's dastardly Tom Brady in 2007.
Against the Patriots last week, Decker had one catch for 5 yards and loads of question marks. On Sunday, he had eight catches for 174 yards and four touchdowns.
It's not just glitzy stats, though, with Manning and his offense. Those hefty numbers are the base to victories. The Broncos are 10-2 after sweeping the two-game series from the Chiefs, who fell to 9-3.
By owning the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Broncos essentially have a two-game lead in the AFC West with four games left.
The victory also capped an impressive month by interim coach Jack Del Rio. Filling in for head coach John Fox, who underwent heart-valve replacement surgery four weeks ago, Del Rio went 3-1 as the Broncos' fill-in leader.
After the team's second victory against the Chiefs, Broncos football operations boss John Elway presented Del Rio with the game ball.
Fox returns to the job Monday morning as Del Rio goes back to full-time defensive coordinator.
"He stepped into a difficult situation and handled it like a pro," said Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan. "I respect that man more for the job he did, on both sides of the ball."
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