Mileposts along the way have shown Manning is again healthy, and the offense is, in fact, one of the best in the league. On Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay, Manning stared straight downfield against a Buccaneers blitz and threaded a touchdown pass to Thomas that John Elway, the Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback who is now the team’s executive vice president of football operations, called “one of the best throws I’ve ever seen.” In the win against Baltimore, Manning threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Decker that came in on a line and seemed to befuddle the defensive back.
But asked after the Ravens game whether his arm had fully recovered, Manning all but stammered.
“I mean, I just, I just . . . I throw it,” he said. “I don’t really know how to answer that. I still have rehab I have to do. I still have strength to recover. I would not say that, no.”
During the Broncos’ nine-game winning streak, the team has averaged 30.4 points per game. They are fifth in the league in total offense, second in scoring, third in touchdowns scored. Those around the Broncos marvel.
“To come back after the injury he had, the residual of the injury he had, it takes a special guy,” Coach John Fox told reporters earlier this month. “To come to a new team, new teammates, new city — everything about it new other than the conference — it’s pretty amazing, actually.”
Only two other quarterbacks have led nine-game winning streaks in their first year after switching teams. Yet Manning wants this all to feel like a work in progress, not work completed.
“What are we, into Week 15 here?” Manning asked after the win over Baltimore. “That’s all the time we’ve had to improve our timing. It’s not what it’s going to be if you play with guys six, seven, eight years. It feels like a scramble.”
That’s what it has always looked like, from the outside, as Manning stands back and waits for the snap, choreographing everything. But he is showing now, in a new city with a new team, that the same qualities that brought him success in Indianapolis can be transferred halfway across the country, and the results will follow.
Rick Maese contributed to this report.