DENVER -- After staring down the best professional defenses have to offer for 260 regular season starts and a pile of NFL records along the way in his storied career, it’s difficult to believe there is a throw that gets the butterflies going for Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
But it’s a throw that statistically covers 36 inches. To a wide-open guy.
Oh, and it was for a key touchdown in a 23-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings to move the Broncos to 4-0.
“That’s kind of the hardest throw and the hardest catch," Manning said. “I’m telling you I’d rather throw in between two guys than hit that wide-open ball, you’ve seen it too many times, just don’t miss a layup, they say."
A 1-yard toss to tight end Owen Daniels Sunday is the throw a future Hall of Famer has to take a breath to make. The Broncos, facing a fourth-and-goal from the Vikings’ 1-yard line Sunday, pulled out a little misdirection, a little something they had tried in Saturday’s practice.
“We rehearsed the situation [Saturday] at the practice field," said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. “And I told [offensive coordinator] Rick Dennison and the guys if we get in this situation, this is where I’m going, we rehearsed the play a couple times during the week. ... Our defense the way they’re playing if we have somebody pinned, I don’t know that you make that decision every day, but it worked out this time."
The Broncos had been stuffed, for no gain, on a run to the right, by Ronnie Hillman on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. On fourth down they showed the same looked and faked the handoff to Hillman as Daniels slid behind the traffic to come out of the left side of the formation.
And with no Vikings anywhere close to Daniels’ personal space, Manning was left to throw the 1-yard scoring pass to a player on his own in the endzone.
“He’s so open that you don’t want to overthrow him, but Owen has to be like, ‘Hurry up, let the ball get here.’ I’m glad that it ended up in his hands," Manning said.
The play closed out the Broncos first possession of the second half and gave Denver a 20-10 lead.
“You just have to think to yourself, ‘just catch it’," Daniels said. “It seemed like it was in the air forever, but Peyton did a great job of getting it there."
“Great misdirection play that coach Kubiak and coach Dennison, there have some of those great goal-line plays in this offense and that was one of them," Manning said.