NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - INSIDE SLANT
Once he got going, Peyton Manning revved up the Denver Broncos' quick-strike offense to a fever pitch.
Manning threw three of his four touchdown passes in the third quarter to break open a close game, and the Broncos went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 52-20 Sunday for their club-record 15th consecutive regular-season win dating to last year.
"We were motivated to be on top of our game offensively, to score points, touchdowns, not field goals, and I thought we did that today," Manning said after the runaway victory over first-year coach Chip Kelly's Eagles, who came in with the league's second-ranked offense behind Denver.
"Their offense was capable of scoring points. Our defense just did a heck of a job answering their challenge."
Denver's Trindon Holliday returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, and linebacker Steven Johnson blocked a punt and returned it 17 yards for another score as the Broncos (4-0) broke a 50-year-old team record for points in a game. Their previous high was 50 against the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 6, 1963.
"Might have to give old Thunder an IV after this one," Manning said with a smile, referring to the team's mascot, a white horse that rides from one end of the field to the other after each Denver score.
Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker each caught two touchdown passes from Manning, who threw four touchdown passes in a game for the 24th time in his career, an NFL record. He has 16 touchdown passes through four games without throwing an interception, matching the NFL mark for the most scoring tosses without a pick from the beginning of a season. The Cleveland Browns' Milt Plum established the record in 1960, though his string stretch 10 games.
"Peyton was just being Peyton," Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox said. "He just changed plays based on our weaknesses that he saw. You've got to get to him. I jumped offside one time trying to get ahead, and that kind of frustrated me, but he does a lot of hard counts and you never know what he's going to do."
Manning completed 28 of 34 passes for 327 yards before giving way to understudy Brock Osweiler early in the fourth quarter. Manning was out of the game before Matt Prater kicked a 53-yard field goal for the Broncos' record-setting point total.
"We just didn't click today," said the Eagles' LeSean McCoy, who ran for 73 yards on 16 carries. "I thought for a while we were rolling and firing back, but we just didn't get it done. It's as simple as that."
Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick completed 14 of 27 passes for 248 yards. He also ran eight times for 41 yards as the Eagles fell to 1-3. Nick Foles threw a 6-yard, fourth-quarter scoring pass to Jeff Maehl after the game was out of reach.
The Broncos led 21-13 at the break, then scored 21 third-quarter points on Manning's touchdown passes of 1 yard and 15 yards to Thomas and 4 yards to Welker.
Johnson then burst up the middle to block Donnie Jones' punt, scooping up the loose ball and going in for the score.
The Broncos, who closed last season by winning 11 straight before losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs, bolted to a 14-3 first-quarter lead.
Manning took the Broncos 74 yards on their opening possession, finishing off the break-neck, no-huddle drive with a 6-yard scoring pass to Welker.
The Eagles settled for a 35-yard field goal by Alex Henery for their first score after Brent Celek dropped a third-down pass from Vick.
The Broncos answered even before their quick-strike offense could get its hands on the ball. Sprung by blocks from David Bruton and Joel Dreessen, Holliday broke through for his third regular-season kick return for a touchdown, a Broncos team record, to put Denver up 14-3.
Holliday dodged a diving Henery at midfield and sprinted into the clear, going untouched along the left sideline to tie his own franchise record for the longest kick return.
The Eagles scored the next 10 points, pulling within a point of the Broncos on Henery's second field goal, a 25-yarder, and Chris Polk's 4-yard touchdown run. However, that proved to be as close as the Eagles could get.
Denver boosted the lead to eight points at the break after Knowshon Moreno capped a long drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 5:05 left in the second quarter.
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - NOTES, QUOTES
Tom Nalen, a five-time Pro Bowl center and a member of the Broncos' Super Bowl winning teams in 1997 and '98, was formally inducted into the team's Ring of Fame during halftime ceremonies.
WR Wes Welker became first Broncos player since Al Denson in 1969 to make at least one touchdown catch in each of his first four games of the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not anywhere near done with our body of work. We're a quarter into it (the season). We're pleased with where we are. Truth be told, you can't be better than 4-0 after four games. We're going to continue to prepare to do the necessary things to get ready for each week, including Dallas next week." -- coach John Fox
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Lost in the glitz of the Broncos' high-powered passing attack is an emerging, effective running game.
Knowshon Moreno had 78 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries for an average gain of 6.5 yards. In all, four ball carriers ran 33 times for 141 yards. Manning says the offense will continue to strive for balance and the passing game figures to find even more openings if the running game can maintain even a semblance of effectiveness.
"Running the football does open up some things in the passing game. We want to be balanced," Manning said. "I thought our run game was solid. We were going downhill and that can make a defense play certain coverages to stop the run. That opens up some one-on-one passing. I thought we had pretty good balance."
The Broncos' defense continues to hold up better than expected, despite missing two of its top players, but the group is nowhere near satisfied.
Cornerback Champ Bailey missed his fourth game because of a foot injury and pass rushing linebacker Von Miller has two games left to serve on his six-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Yet, the Broncos stalled an Eagles offense that came in ranked second only to Denver's soaring attack.
"In order to be a great defense you have to shut the door all the time," said defensive end Shaun Phillips. "Are we playing good? Yes. But can we play better? Yes. We have so much room for improvement."