Manning shows respect for Eagles offense

Denver's Peyton Manning is off to a torrid start, throwing 12 TDs through the first three games. DOUG PENSINGER / Getty
Denver's Peyton Manning is off to a torrid start, throwing 12 TDs through the first three games. DOUG PENSINGER / Getty
Posted: September 27, 2013

Confined by a short week and amid a record-setting opening month, Peyton Manning finds his attention is now consumed by the Eagles defense.

Even as an aficionado of offensive football, Manning has had little time this season to assess the offense that Eagles coach Chip Kelly has brought to the NFL.

But Manning has heard enough about Kelly's offense - especially from Broncos coach John Fox in the last two days - to know that the Broncos offense cannot have an off day on Sunday when the Eagles visit.

"From an offensive standpoint, we have to be on our game," Manning said Wednesday in a teleconference. "We have to be executing. We have to protect the ball, because if you're giving Philadelphia and Michael Vick and [LeSean] McCoy short fields and not doing your job, they're capable of scoring a lot of points and a lot of points quickly."

That might be an overstatement from Manning, but he's right that both offenses can move the ball. The Broncos and the Eagles have the most yards of any offense in the NFL, with 486.7 yards per game for Denver and 461.7 yards per game for the Eagles.

The Broncos average an NFL-best 42.3 points per game - more than two touchdowns better than the Eagles' 26.3 points per game. Manning's the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 12 touchdowns through the first three games.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy echoed Manning's statement from the Eagles side, indicating that the Eagles need to score to keep pace with Denver.

"Once you punt the ball to Peyton Manning, you kind of count that as seven," said McCoy, who has heard so much of the Manning chatter this week that he reminded reporters that he's 1-0 against Manning.

That's a rarity, though. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis is 0-2 as a coordinator against Manning-quarterbacked teams. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the quarterback of the Eagles defense, is 2-7 against Manning. But he's not going to bow to Manning, and he's telling his teammates to focus on winning the game.

"You can't get in awe of Peyton Manning," Ryans said. "Yeah, he's a great quarterback. Get over it. Everyone knows he's a Hall of Fame guy. Get over it. What do you have to do to win this game? That's the mentality we all have to take."

It hasn't worked for the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, or Oakland Raiders, each failing to stop Manning in the first three weeks. But Manning was hesitant about overhyping the Broncos' offense, even if analysts and oddsmakers have been doing it for him.

He emphasized it's early in the season, and he has new starters, such as tight end Julius Thomas, and new teammates, such as wide receiver Wes Welker, who require an acclimation process.

"Everybody makes these summary statements after one game or two games," Manning said. "We talk about the process here, and we're just going through the process. This is the beginning of the process. We're still figuring out who we are and what we do best, what our identity is."

Their identity is different than it was when Fox was hired in 2011. Tim Tebow was then one of the top quarterback options on that roster. Fox remarked how "different" it is coaching with a "first-ballot Hall of Famer at that position."

Perhaps that's why the Eagles were among the teams rumored to pursue Manning when Manning was a free agent in 2012 following neck surgery, even though the Eagles were the only reported suitor with a quarterback signed to a $100 million deal. The Los Angeles Times reported in March 2012 that discussions never advanced because Manning did not want to be in the same division as his brother, Eli. Manning did not delve into the topic when asked about it on Wednesday.

"I don't have much for you on that," Manning said. "It's been such a whirlwind since that time."

The whirlwind continues this week, when the Broncos have six days to prepare and the Eagles have 10 days to prepare for Manning. The quarterback did not gripe about the discrepancy on Wednesday and said every team needs to go through the short week at some point.

"It's a physical challenge and certainly a mental challenge," Manning said. "It's a grind all week, and every single repetition of practice and every second of meeting and walk-throughs are all critical."

So he spent the early part of the week trying to catch up with the Eagles. He said it's an unfamiliar defense with a new coordinator, a new scheme, and different personnel. That's why as a nine-minute telephone conversation waned Manning indicated he needed to leave. Preparation awaited for what could be another step in a record-setting campaign.

"We're trying to get ready for these guys," Manning said. "And it's going to be a tough day Sunday, I believe."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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