KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning went back to an offense that looked suspiciously like the one he’d run the past three seasons and quieted his critics with an improbable come-from-behind 31-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.
It was one rather hearty statement from the 39-year-old quarterback. Manning has had his game scrutinized in the four days since the Broncos’ season-opening win over the Ravens in which he was sacked four times and did not have a touchdown pass.
“The talk doesn’t really get to me,” Manning said after leading a 10-play, 80-yard drive to tie the Chiefs with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. “A lot of other people read it.
“I don’t really read a lot of papers, watch a lot of analysis. You get some friends and teammates and it seems to make them quite angry, and they like to tell me that they’re mad. … But it doesn’t affect me.”
And why should it? Manning finished 26-of-45 for 256 yards and three touchdowns. He also became just the second quarterback in league history to surpass 70,000 career passing yards; Brett Favre is the other.
And after Manning's tying drive, Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby returned a Chiefs fumble for a score with 27 seconds remaining.
Nine seconds, two touchdowns and one hard-fought win.
“I’ve never been in one quite like that,” Manning said. “I’ve been in a couple crazy games but never one quite like that.”
Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall said: “He’s a hell of a quarterback. I mean, he has it, I don’t know what people are thinking about him or saying about him. But he is a great quarterback, a great quarterback and with him, every guy in this room thinks we can win it all.”
When the Broncos said their offense was a “work in progress,” it’s not clear whether they meant they would try to make progress during games.
But that’s exactly what the Broncos did Thursday after Manning had his second interception of the season returned for a touchdown -- 55 yards by Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters with 6 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the first half. The Broncos essentially tossed aside the offense’s extensive makeover.
The offense for the rest of the game looked a lot like what Manning had run the past few seasons. After Peters’ interception gave the Chiefs a 14-0 lead, Manning set up in the shotgun, with three wide receivers in the formation, working the short and intermediate routes between the numbers.
“We’re trying to help him, run the football better, do some things,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “We also know what he’s very comfortable doing. We’re also trying to somehow find a meeting between the two; we think that would be good for our team. He took control, we got him in that environment, we struggled to run the ball, but he continued to make plays. … If we can continue to get better around him, he’s going to be just fine; we’ve got to continue to get better around him.”
The result of the decision to turn back the clock on the offense put Manning in his comfort zone.
Kubiak had never ruled out the shotgun set, even as the Broncos continue to crank up their run game and add a play-action element to the offense. But Kubiak has said the Broncos would pick their spots to let Manning “do those things he’s done better than anybody else in an offense.”
The Broncos decided Thursday was one of those times. And as far as where Manning and this offense are headed?
“I kind of stay away from the summaries after one game; I think usually that’s a pretty safe method,” Manning said. “Maybe just let me play at least two games, maybe three, maybe even 16. Let’s just kind of play a little football before we summarize who the offense is and what we’re going to be and what this team is.”