October 2, 2012
New city, new team, same Peyton Manning.
That's how the Denver Broncos quarterback looked in Week 4, at least, carving up the Oakland Raiders by completing 30 of 38 passes for 338 yards with three touchdowns.
"He's getting more comfortable," Coach John Fox said of Manning after the 37-6 victory. "Let's not forget he didn't play all [last] season, probably more than a year. This is a new team, a new coaching staff, a new city, a new field, a new everything for him. The type of guy he is, he's just going to get better and better. He's a championship guy and he's going to get used to his teammates, our players."
Sunday, Manning and the Broncos head to familiar territory, at New England, where both have experienced frustration.
Most recently, the Broncos were ushered out of the 2011 playoffs in Foxborough, with a 45-10 defeat in the divisional round — quite a comedown from their Tim Tebow-led first-round upset of Pittsburgh.
Manning has an even richer history against the Patriots, all from his years as quarterback in Indianapolis. His Colts were 7-10 against New England with him as the starting quarterback. Carolina (2-1) and Green Bay (2-1) were the only other franchises with winning records against the Colts during the Manning years.
Now, both the Broncos and Patriots are 2-2 and coming off impressive offensive performances. Both have Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks who are starting to show their age. But sometimes, as in Week 4, they look ageless.
"I can't say this is the quarterback you really want to face," Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said Monday of Manning. "He's pretty good."
Wrong kind of spiral
History awaits New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who needs one touchdown pass to break what once was considered unbreakable: Johnny Unitas' record of scoring passes in 47 consecutive games.
Brees tied the mark in the Week 4 loss at Green Bay, and can set a new one Sunday night in New Orleans, against his old team, San Diego.
As for the Saints, they're already history. They're off to a shocking 0-4 start and are the only winless team in the NFC, a year after finishing 13-3.
The Chargers, coming off a 37-20 victory at Kansas City, are looking to hang onto sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
Green Bay plays at Indianapolis, and while that was never a Super Bowl matchup, the Colts' interim coach faced the Packers on the biggest stage.
Bruce Arians is standing in as Colts coach until Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with leukemia last week, is well enough to return. Arians was Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator when the Steelers played Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV, a 31-25 victory by the Packers.
Packers at Colts also marks the return to Indianapolis of Green Bay center Jeff Saturday, who as a member of the Colts had the job of snapping the ball to Manning. A fixture returns to his old town.
The pressure is mounting for the New York Jets to try Tebow at quarterback, but Coach Rex Ryan insists he's standing by Mark Sanchez, even after the Jets were shut out at home by San Francisco, 34-0.
Asked Monday about the possibility of switching quarterbacks, Ryan said: "I just know in my heart right now that this is not the time. I think Tim is an outstanding player. I think Mark is. Right now, I think Mark gives us our best opportunity to win."
The task ahead is daunting. The Jets play host next Monday night to the undefeated Houston Texans, who emerged from the weekend as the AFC's top defense.
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