Peyton shakes off regular season

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The "what's wrong with Peyton Manning" question has been framed a variety of ways over the final month of the regular season.

Manning battled a right thigh injury down the stretch -- which he suffered Dec. 14 in San Diego -- and over the final five games of the regular season, he had one 300-yard passing game, two games with fewer than 200 yards passing, five touchdowns and six interceptions for the Broncos.

With Denver poised for Sunday's AFC divisional round game against the Indianapolis Colts, Manning's health and recent play are again on the front burner. And the topic was something Broncos coach John Fox had little time or patience for Wednesday.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game," Fox said after the team's practice. "Statistically the top three this year, his performance kind of speaks for itself."

Told that Manning's recent numbers weren't up to his usual level of performance, Fox responded: "Everybody's got opinions, but I don't see that."

The Broncos finished the season second in the league in scoring at 30.1 points per game, and Manning was second in the league in touchdown passes (39), fourth in passing yards (4,727) and fourth in passer rating (101.5). He did not throw a touchdown pass in two of the team's December games, however -- wins over Buffalo and Oakland -- to go with a four-interception effort in a loss to the Bengals.

Manning was held out of the team's two on-the-field practices last week, during the Broncos' postseason bye. But he threw and took his usual workload in practices Monday and Wednesday.

"I feel pretty good physically," Manning said after practice. "Like all players, I've battled through some injuries. I think the bye week came at a good time for us, gave some guys a chance to get healthy."

Since their Nov. 16 loss in St. Louis, when the Broncos ran the ball just 10 times, Fox, offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Manning have discussed the need for the team to be more committed to the run. So much of the final month of the regular season has been an exercise in trying to run the ball better and still crank up the passing game when they want to.

The Broncos have shown glimpses, such as a 21-point quarter in the loss to the Bengals and 40 of their 47 points scored in the regular-season finale against the Raiders coming on offense.

"We've tried to find different ways to win football games, and hopefully that prepares us well when we get into these playoff games and anything can go on," Manning said. "... You never know what it's going to be, and [I] think we've proven we can win games different ways. Hopefully that serves us well potentially on Sunday."