Manning now all-time comeback king
ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP)
It was early November in Cincinnati. The Broncos quarterback dropped
back to pass, found a receiver open for a 30-yard gain.
plays later, Denver scored the winning touchdown and John Elway, in his
16th and final season, had the 39th game-winning drive of the 40 he
would engineer in the fourth quarter or overtime.
15 years to another November day in Cincinnati. Elway runs the team
from the front office and the quarterback he brought to Denver, Peyton Manning, directs a five-play, 80-yard drive that gives the Broncos the
lead in the fourth quarter. It's his 48th game-winning drive. Manning
now holds the NFL record in a category Elway once defined.
''He thrives on it,'' Broncos coach John Fox said. ''I think most
competitors do. They want the ball in their hands.''
He could have been speaking about Elway. In this case, he was speaking
quarterback's latest escape act, which included four completions,
including one of his three scoring passes against the Bengals, was more
efficient than dramatic, more just another touchdown drive than, say,
Yet for all the gaudy numbers Manning is putting up
this season — 2,404 yards, 20 touchdowns, the 108.6 passer rating —
it's the three fourth-quarter game-winning drives, against Pittsburgh,
San Diego and Cincinnati, that show what he's really all about.
football players, when the fourth quarter comes around, that's when the
pressure's on, that's when you want to rely on your fundamentals and
techniques,'' Manning said. ''I think we can draw on this type of
Though any NFL quarterback will take what Manning got
Sunday — a win — it will not go down as one of his best statistical
performances, mainly because of the two interceptions he threw, both of
which contributed to a 14-point lead turning into a three-point deficit
early in the fourth quarter.
There was no sense of panic, said tight end Jacob Tamme, who played
with Manning for three years in Indianapolis.
takes responsibility when he does something he feels wasn't good enough
and we all take responsibility when we do something we feel wasn't good
enough,'' Tamme said. ''That's how we operate as an offense. It was
just kind of a sense of, let's go out there and do our job a little bit
better and we'll win.''
They did. Eight minutes later, with the
help of a Champ Bailey interception, Manning led another touchdown
drive to make it 31-20. The Bengals kicked a field goal but didn't
recover the ensuing onside kick.
''If you run into an adverse
situation, it's no reason to get down,'' Bailey said. ''You just keep
playing ball. Keep going out and doing your job because you know you're
going to have a chance. You see other players doing that on this team.
There are a lot of leaders on this team.''
Top on the list: Manning.
the slow start so many predicted for both the team and the quarterback,
coming onto a new team and after missing a year while his surgically
repaired neck healed, Manning is playing as well as he ever has.
schedule, meanwhile, has eased. Games against Houston, Atlanta and New
England are in the rearview mirror. Only one team with a winning record
remains on the schedule.
The Broncos head into the second half
of the season on a three-game winning streak. They lead the AFC West at
5-3. Manning leads the NFL in completion percentage (69.5), average
gain per attempt (8.23) and with that passer rating of more than 108.
That last stat, loosely translated, means he's playing quarterback
better than anyone in the NFL right now.
''In his case, every time he goes out there, he's got a chance to do
something special,'' Fox said.
He's making memories in the fourth quarter — a time that used to belong
to Elway in this city.
was against the Colts in 1983 that Elway made his first comeback. From
19-0 down to a 21-19 win, with all the touchdowns coming in the fourth
After another particularly impressive comeback — two
touchdowns over the last two minutes to beat the Chiefs 20-19 in 1992 —
Elway said he never gave up, no matter how dire the situation: ''No.
When I think we've lost is when the game is over,'' he said.
Manning at the helm, the impossible seems possible again in Denver. A
24-point deficit in San Diego turns into a 35-24 win that goes down as
the first time a team has won by double digits after trailing by so
much. A blown lead in Cincinnati turns into a 31-23 win that, somehow,
Of course, nobody goes into a game hoping to need
a comeback. But when things play out this way, Manning said, it's not
such a bad thing.
''The more you can go through it as a unit,
the more you can draw on it later in the season,'' he said. ''Anytime
you can win going through those scenarios, that's a plus.''
Fox said there was no update on OL Chris Kuper, who left the game with
an injured left ankle. ''No fracture involved,'' Fox said. ''There'll
be some rehab.'' ... Tamme, who left the game briefly with an injury,
said he tweaked a nerve in his elbow when he hit it on the turf and it
felt OK on Monday. ... The Broncos gave no update on CB Tracy Porter,
who missed his third straight game because of problems related to a
seizure over the summer. ... The Broncos lost two turnovers and picked
up only one against Cincinnati, falling to minus-4 for the season, 23rd
in the league.
Peyton Tops Among All QBs
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