Fourth down was first priority for Broncos

DENVER -- There are times, when Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning leaves his helmet on after he exits the field, when it’s pretty clear he had hoped to get clearance to go for it on fourth down.

When it’s clear he believed the time was right to roll the dice, take a chance.

But when the Broncos faced a fourth-and-3 in the second quarter of Sunday’s win against the Washington Redskins, the ball was at the Redskins’ 43-yard line and the Broncos had a 7-0 lead. So, when Manning made the case, albeit briefly as he jogged to the sideline, Broncos coach John Fox still sent the punt team on.

However, when the Broncos faced a fourth-and-2 at the Redskins’ 20-yard line, trailing 21-7 in the third quarter having just seen two of their turnovers turned into two Washington touchdowns, now, that was a different story.

"Certainly as an offense, we like it," Manning said. "... I think there is a real motivation to please him and make it successful so you can do it again."

Manning sent running back Knowshon Moreno into the middle of the Redskins defense on a quick-hit play that gained five yards. Three plays later the Broncos had a touchdown and had cut Washington’s lead to 21-14 with an 11-play, 75-yard drive.

"At the end of the day it was a manageable distance," said Fox. "So, that’s why we elected to go for it."

The Broncos dialed it up again on their next possession. Having run 15 plays to move the ball 82 yards to the Redskins’ 1-yard line, the Broncos faced fourth-and-goal. The Broncos again elected to leave Manning and the offense on the field and were rewarded, again, this time with a 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Joel Dreessen out of the heaviest of formations that featured three tight ends to go with defensive tackle Mitch Unrein lined up out wide as a receiver.

"Mitch is always a threat out there," Manning said with a smile. "Never know how a defense is going to play him, whether they’re going to double him or not. It’s definitely good to throw a little wrinkle at the defense."

Dreessen's touchdown tied the game at 21-21 and the Broncos never looked back. In the end the Broncos scored 38 unanswered points, 31 of those in the fourth quarter.

“We put our defense in a tough spot with turnovers back to back," Manning said. " … Those first two drives after the first two turnovers and we were able to tie the game. That one to make it 21-14 was critical."