A weekly examination of the Denver Broncos' quarterback play.
Rewind: It is telling what kind of year Peyton Manning is having that when he finishes a game, a 16-point win no less, 28 of 42 passing for 295 yards and two touchdowns, as he did against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday, people then spend some time asking him what went wrong. It was still a quality outing, but Manning did show some small hints of frustration against Jacksonville’s defensive plan, but not enough to keep him from chugging along at a record pace.
Fast-forward: The Broncos have been a decidedly chuck-it-around offense thus far, but this may be the week to go big and grind it out a bit. The Colts have shown some problems in their run defense, especially through the middle of the formation. The Chargers, with former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy now the team’s head coach, repeatedly used an inside zone run game to pound out the yardage. The Broncos are always going to throw it, but Manning could have opportunities to keep drives going if he keeps pounding the ball in the middle of the field.
Share the wealth: Manning has been remarkably efficient in his pass distribution this season and opposing defenses are consistently faced with difficult choices because of it. Defensive plans are routinely built on the idea of removing a quarterback’s favorite targets from the equation. But Manning has essentially treated his top four targets equally thus far. Eric Decker and Wes Welker have each been targeted 50 times in six games, Demaryius Thomas has been targeted 49 times and tight end Julius Thomas has been targeted 43 times.
Prediction: Colts coach Chuck Pagano, a longtime defensive assistant in the league, has long talked about keeping an offense’s “game-wreckers" from tipping the scales, but the Broncos' passing game will be his defense’s stiffest test of the season. The Chargers, No. 3 in the league in passing, are the only team the Colts have faced this season with a passing game ranked above 22nd. The Colts can bring the pressure at times -- they have 19 sacks this season -- but in looking at how the Colts have played so far, Manning should find some room to work with the Broncos' tight ends and running backs against Indianapolis linebackers.