Peyton Manning has had a peculiar start to the season.
He failed to lead a single touchdown drive in a Week 1 win over the Ravens, and he threw a pick-six against the Chiefs in Week 2 that put Denver in a 14-0 hole.
But then the magic of Manning happened. The 39-year-old threw three touchdown passes to lead the Broncos to a 31-24 win over their AFC West rival – in Kansas City, no less.
Still, Manning has been up and down through two games. From the outside looking in, his arm doesn’t appear to be what it once was – or even what it was last season.
Is that the case?
“Well, I go against him every day in practice,” Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I (went) against him all through the offseason training camp, and he done put plenty of balls on the money where I thought I had perfect coverage and a Peyton Ball comes in and it’s (perfect). The arm strength is there, the confidence is there, the accuracy is there – I see it every day, man. It’s just getting used to a new offense. I’m sure in the near future, y’all will see it as well.”
The Broncos’ running game has struggled thus far – Denver is averaging just 65 rushing yards per game, 29th in the NFL – but they’ve made a concerted effort to be more balanced. If it takes the offense time to find its footing, well, that’s okay – mainly because the defense is one of the best in football.
Talib. DeMarcus Ware. Von Miller. T.J. Ward. Danny Trevathan. That unit has led the way.
Or has it?
“Peyton is definitely still leading us,” Talib clarified, “but John (Elway) spent a lot of money on this defense, so we better show up and make some plays. He spent a lot of money on this defense. We’re a good group. We gel together. We chill off the field, on the field. He put a good group of guys together, so we definitely feel like we can make some noise this year.”
They’ll look do that once more this weekend in yet another prime-time game. The Broncos travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (0-2) on Sunday Night Football.
Brandon Tierney sees in Detroit a team on the way down. Talib, however, sees talent.
“They’re a very capable offense, man,” Talib said. “You almost look at every position and they got a very capable guy. On top of that, they got Megatron over there. Everyone knows what kind of problems he presents every game.”
Megatron, of course, is Calvin Johnson, who has 12 catches for 122 yards and one touchdown through two games. But is Johnson, 29, still the same guy who put up nearly 2,000 yards in 2012? Or the guy who put up nearly 1,500 in 2013?
“He’s definitely the same guy,” Talib said. “If you still draw double teams the way he draws double teams, then you’re definitely the same guy.”
As Tiki Barber noted, Johnson is big, long and powerful.
“And fast,” Talib said.
Right, so how do you prepare for a 6-5, 237-pound menace?
“A lot of film study,” Talib said. “You got to have an idea of where he’s going to be, an idea of what’s coming your way. It’s probably going to take more than one guy to cover him more times than not. You just got to have a great game plan going in, and the guy guarding him better be watching tape to have an idea what he’s going to do.”