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Eli vs. Peyton: Manning family dynamic tension

FootballSportsPeyton ManningNFLNew York GiantsDenver BroncosBaltimore Ravens

Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes Thursday night in Denver's 49-27 throttling of Baltimore in the Kickoff Opener.

His dad, Archie, had three NFL seasons with at least 10 starts when he didn't throw seven all year.

Archie texted Peyton something to that effect shortly after Thursday's game.

"I mean, I never threw seven in practice!" Archie said from his home in New Orleans.

"You never know when a game like that comes. Sometimes with a quarterback, or with a productive offense, you can have the same yards and the same game and get down there seven times and run it in seven times. I think the main thing is not the seven touchdowns, but that they're productive offensively."

Archie wasn't in Denver for the game — his wife, Olivia, was — because he is recovering from back surgery. He also won't be at Sunday night's game in Dallas, when youngest son Eli leads the New York Giants against the Cowboys.

But both Manning parents will be making the trip to East Rutherford, N.J., next Sunday to watch Peyton and Eli square off for the third time in their careers. All the Mannings sort of wish that game would go away for good.

"We don't like it. [Peyton and Eli] don't like it," Archie said. "But, hey, you've kind of got to look at it as kind of an honor and how blessed we are to have two sons playing quarterback in the NFL. It's happened twice, and this may be the last time.

"I look at it as, we don't get worked up about it, but it's all part of the journey. That's kind of my philosophy is, enjoy the journey."

One Manning who won't be making that journey is oldest brother Cooper, who went to the first "Brother Bowl" in 2006, when Peyton's Colts won at the Meadowlands, but skipped the rematch in Indianapolis when Peyton again was victorious.

"I went to the first one and there made the decision I would never go back," Cooper said.

He roots for both brothers' teams, on both sides of ball, which obviously becomes difficult when they play each other.

"I like pulling for our defense," he said. "I pull hard. I'm watching our corners, watching our linebackers making plays. Then all of a sudden I'm doing that against my brother, and that doesn't feel right, either.

"I don't want to be cheering when Peyton throws a touchdown, and there's Eli's wife looking at me like, 'What the heck are you doing cheering for that?'"

With their opener in the books, Peyton and the Broncos can start preparing for the Giants — although Denver players are getting this weekend off — whereas Eli and the Giants have a tough divisional challenge against the Cowboys, who beat them at home in last season's opener.

The Giants haven't lost in Dallas since the Cowboys opened their new stadium, going 4-0 there since 2009.

"I know the guys have had success there," Archie said, "and that might make it even tougher. It's a real hard game."

When watching one of Peyton or Eli's games, the Mannings only exhale when the clock reads 00:00, and it's surely the same for most any parent or sibling.

But Archie, who played 11 NFL seasons with four teams, could certainly appreciate the seven-touchdown game, which tied an NFL record and had not happened since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

"Everything is going to be magnified by [the opener], because it's the opening game of the year on Thursday night, you're playing the team that knocked you out [of the playoffs] last year," Archie said.

He said he expects the Broncos to be a productive running team this year with their trio of backs: Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball.

"Peyton, his deal's always been balance," Archie said. "He likes to call plays at the line and make choices, but I've never seen him pass-happy. He'll take what they give him. But he likes to have a running game — and he needs a running game. At age 37, you've got to have a running game."

Even though he said there are many factors that go into a victory — some of which don't show up in the statistics — Archie conceded: "Most people would say, 'Hey, you throw seven touchdowns, that's your greatest game.' And gosh, that's unbelievable."

Of the fact the game was moved from Baltimore to Denver because of a scheduling conflict with baseball, he said: "The Broncos probably ought to send the Orioles a gift package or something."

Archie scoffs at the people already predicting how many touchdown passes Peyton will throw this season: "I heard some guy say, 'Well, at this rate he's going to throw 60 touchdowns.' Baloney. You just don't know. Football is a crazy game, and you have no idea what's in store, so you just play the game."

And to the people already writing off the defending Super Bowl champions: "Believe me, the Ravens will be there at the end. The Ravens will be around. Don't worry about the Ravens. Too well-coached, and too many good players."

Cooper, too, has a special appreciation for the seven touchdowns. His career as a college receiver was cut short by neck problems, but he did step in at quarterback as a sophomore at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, the high school alma mater of all the Manning brothers.

In a loss to Belle Chasse, Cooper nearly counted to seven himself . . . when six of his passes were picked off.

"I'm pretty sure I threw six," he said. "But in the paper, they only gave me credit for five. Maybe the reporter left in the fourth quarter when I threw my sixth."

False starts

Don't be surprised if Seattle struggles in its opener Sunday at Carolina.

The Seahawks might be Super Bowl contenders, but they have repeatedly started slowly under Coach Pete Carroll, especially on the road. The last three seasons, they're 0-3 in their road openers — at Denver, San Francisco and Arizona — and had a combined eight turnovers and 31 penalties.

In the past, they've been markedly better with some games under their belt.

Misdirection play?

Heading into his team's opener against Green Bay, San Francisco Coach Jim Harbaugh has kicked up a lot of dust about how the rules protect (or don't protect) quarterbacks on read-option plays. In a divisional win over the Packers in January, Colin Kaepernick ran for a playoff-record 181 yards and two touchdowns.

It wouldn't be out of character for Harbaugh to talk all week about the run, then throw a curveball by keeping Kaepernick in the pocket the way he did in the NFC championship game at Atlanta, when the quarterback had two carries.

Slippery slope

Washington's Robert Griffin III, who plans to debut on his rebuilt knee Monday night when the Redskins play host to Philadelphia, said he intends to slide more frequently.

Then again, it doesn't help that FedEx Field looks like a tractor-pull course after games.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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