There was a frightening moment involving Peyton Manning on Sunday night.
He banged his right hand on the helmet of a defender and hurt his thumb, but, after a season away from the NFL and four neck surgeries, a thumb injury wasn’t going to stop him. He was injured just before halftime and, after trainers looked at his thumb, he came back in and threw two more passes before halftime. He was right back out there again in the second half, completing a nearly perfect performance in the Denver Broncos’ 34-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s always kind of a quarterback’s biggest fear, is a hand on a helmet,” Manning told NBC’s Michele Tafoya, “but I think it’s the fingernail, actually. It’ll be sore tomorrow, but it wasn’t too bad and I was able to play in the second half.”
Now for the other scary thing involving Manning: He appears to be just as good as he ever was. He leads the league with a 108.9 passer rating and has completed over 68 percent of his passes for 2,113 yards and 17 touchdowns (with four interceptions). He showed that he’s meshing well with Broncos receivers — particularly Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme — Sunday night. The ground game was solid behind Willis McGahee (take heart, Marcus Lattimore) and Ronnie Hillman. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos were ranked 10th in total defense and passing defense entering the game against the Saints.
But Manning, who had a nearly perfect 138.9 passer rating Sunday night, is the difference, the Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla writes. And he dares to state what everybody is beginning to wonder:
After four surgeries on his neck and a layoff of more than a year from the game, conventional wisdom and common sense argued there was no way Manning could possibly be as good for the Broncos as he was for the Colts in 2009, the last time he won the MVP.
Well, consider this: Manning might be better than ever. Against the Saints, he threw for more than 300 yards for the fifth consecutive time in a Denver uniform.
Manning also chose his landing spot wisely: The Broncos, while they may be 4-3, are alone in first place in the AFC West