Peyton Manning has an NFL-record 12 touchdowns after three games this season, and has yet to throw an interception. (USA Today Images)
Peyton Manning is off to the hottest start of any quarterback in NFL history, and the numbers simply defy belief.
He’s throwing for nearly 400 yards a game, he has an NFL-record 12 touchdowns after three games, he hasn’t thrown an interception and he’s putting up more than 40 points per game.
He’s 37 years old, and the first-ballot Hall of Famer is playing better than ever.
“We think it’s silly,” Broncos tight end Julius Thomas said. “To think about what he’s been able to do, week in and week out, we just shake our heads.
“He’s playing at such a high level right now, he just continues to get better and make everyone around him better. We’re definitely happy we have 18 running things for us.”
Manning, now in his second year with the Broncos, faces the Eagles and their 29th-ranked defense on Sunday in Denver. Kickoff at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (formerly Invesco Field) is scheduled for 4:25 p.m.
Manning’s 12 touchdowns are most in NFL history after three games, his 1,143 passing yards are fourth-most after three games, his 73 percent completion percentage is seventh-highest in NFL history three games in, and he’s thrown 122 passes, second-most ever by a QB without an INT through three games (behind Manning in 2010).
Since joining the Broncos before last season, Manning is 16-6 with 49 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He’s 9-1 at home as a Bronco, averaging 35 points per game in those 10 home starts with 33 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Has anybody ever played the position better?
Manning is making it look easy, but he says that’s definitely not the case.
“It’s not,” he said. “We do put a lot of work into the preparation. Our preparation has been excellent these first three weeks. We really study the opponent. We take a lot of extra time in practices and walk-throughs trying to be sure we’re all on the same page.
“We have a number of new starters to this team. It’s still a new offense, in my opinion, with our new players. So we take advantage of the practice time that we have and hopefully we can transfer that to the game field.”
So far, so good.
The Broncos are 3-0, and their 127 points are second-most in NFL history after three games, behind only the 1968 Cowboys, who scored 132 (including 45 in a win over the Eagles at Franklin Field).
The Broncos scored a season-low 37 points in their 37-21 win over the Raiders Monday night.
“Our coaches do a great job of making sure we stay focused,” Thomas said. “Our leaders and our coaches are making sure that when we come out to practice, we practice the way we expect to. We work hard, we push each other, so when the game comes we try not to have any off weeks.
“Every day we go out there we improve. It’s been happening in practice and showing in the games.”
It’s impossible to get Manning to talk about himself or the records he sets.
Is he playing as well as he ever has? He just shrugs.
“I can’t say that,” he said. “This is a new season. It’s one week at a time. I don’t have a great comparison to other years. But guys are making good plays in the passing game, and we are doing a good job getting yards after the catch.
“I still think we can correct some things. I still think there is plenty we can improve on. I really do.”
Manning is 3-1 in his career against the Eagles, and his 104.5 career passer rating is seventh-highest ever by an opposing quarterback (but third-highest among QBs they face the first month of the season, behind Robert Griffin III and Philip Rivers).
As brilliant as Manning was during the regular season with the Colts -- 141-67 with a 94.9 passer rating in 14 years -- he’s 16-3 with a 110.8 rating so far with the Broncos.
“I think he’s started where he left off last year and improved on that,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “We added some weapons, I think personnel-wise our guys have brought in some guys that have helped us. And he’s an incredible player as far as the way he prepares and he communicates things to his teammates.”
The Broncos have four players on pace for 1,000 receiving yards, led by Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (20 catches for 307 yards, two TDs), wide out Eric Decker (19-for-252), five-time Pro Bowler Wes Welker (19-for-190) and Julius Thomas, a first-year starter (14-for-194).
Maybe the craziest stat is that despite throwing 122 passes, Manning doesn’t have an interception and has been sacked just four times.
He’s thrown 167 straight passes without an INT since getting picked off by Browns safety Usama Young last December.
“Just good play-calling,” Manning said. “Trying to make good, smart, sound decisions. I think guys are doing a good job getting open on time. I think guys have a good clock in their head about when to come out of the break vs. different coverages.
“Protection has been good, so it gives you a chance to see the field and try to throw accurate footballs.”
And here’s a scary thought.
Manning said the Broncos still haven’t played a complete game.
They scored only 14 and 10 first-half points against the Ravens and Giants before exploding for 35 and 31 in the second half. And Monday night, they had 27 at halftime but only 10 in the second half.
What exactly will Manning be facing on Sunday?
An Eagles defense that’s allowing 323 passing yards per game, one of the 20 highest figures in NFL history after three games (although less than the Broncos have allowed so far).
“We work so hard every week, and to be able to execute is not something that just happens on accident,” Julius Thomas said. “It’s just something that everyone on offense is committed to doing. And when we’re able to put things together, we’re able to score a lot of points.”